A one-horned rhino calf that was rescued by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) team in Kaziranga forest on Sunday. (Source: PTI)
Even as about 30 per cent of its area continued to remain underwater on Saturday, Kaziranga National Park – home to the highest number of one-horned rhinos in the world – has lost as many as 334 animals in two successive waves of floods, with the casualty list including 22 rhinos, one tiger, several elephants and buffalos and over 250 various species of deer.
“While the first wave of floods in July came in slowly, the second wave was rather very rapid, catching the animals almost totally unaware. On August 12 for instance, the water level rose by more than 10 feet in just about 10 to 12 hours, and the animals, who generally can anticipate danger by watching the water-level rise, were almost caught unaware,” Park director Satyendra Singh said.
That was why, though the Park remained for a longer period under water in the first wave in July, it lost only 105 animals. “In comparison, we lost 229 animals till Saturday, of which as many as 202 were various species of deer. We also lost 15 rhinos in the current wave, apart from five elephant calves, two buffalos, four wild boars, and most importantly, one tiger,” Singh told The Indian Express over the telephone from Kaziranga.
Though the tiger carcass was found on Friday, Park director Singh said it had died on Augst 14 itself. “Our guards on duty had reported hearing loud unusual sound of elephants on that day. On Friday morning we found a tiger carcass in a small highland, with the carcass of an elephant calf nearby. The tiger – a four-year old male – might have died after it was attacked by a herd of elephants while it had probably tried to attack an elephant calf. It is our assumption though,” Park director Singh said.
Aug. 18, 2017 photo, the carcass of a tiger lies in floodwaters at the Bagori range inside Kaziranga National Park. (AP Photo/Uttam Saikia)
The other possibility, according to Singh, was that the tiger came under attack of the elephant herd following a space crunch on the small highland where all of them had taken shelter when the water-level suddenly rose. “The second situation appeared more likely, going by the fact that post-mortem examined showed there was a lot of hog deer meat in the tiger’s intestines,” he said. Kaziranga has the highest density of Royal Bengal tigers in India, with the last count showing 104 tigers there.
Among the 202 deer that Kaziranga lost in the second wave so far, as many as 189 were hog deer, the remainder comprising of swamp deer and sambar. “While bigger animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos and buffalos generally move out faster to higher lands especially across the national highway to Karbi Anglong, smaller animals run the risk of getting washed away by the swirling flood-waters,” Park director Singh said. Smaller animals like the hog deer also get knocked down while crossing the highway.
Kaziranga National Park has also suffered serious damage to its infrastructure in the two successive waves of floods. Even as about 30 per cent of the 430-sq km Park area on the south bank of the Brahmaputra was still under water, Park director Singh said a sizeable number of wooden bridges and anti-poaching camps have been damaged.
A mahout bathes his elephant inside the flooded Kaziranga National Park, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika
“We will be able to make a final assessment only when the entire flood-water flows out of the Park. But several wooden bridges as well as pucca culverts have been visibly damaged, some of them also washed away,” he said.
Kaziranga will also require a major repair work of the roads inside, especially with the Brahmaputra leaving behind a lot of slush and sand after the water receded. “We have about 500 km of roads and patrol tracks in the Park on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, and these will have to be immediately repaired once the floods were completely out,” he said.