MIRZA, July 17 – Despite widespread concern about death of a large number of wild animals during the annual deluge, floods are a boon for survival of the flora and fauna in Kaziranga National Park.
According to environmental experts, unless there are floods in Kaziranga National Park, the eco system will stop regenerating and die in the near future .
“Flooding and waning of the Brahmaputra river has helped to maintain the ecological process in the park. Floods contribute to maintain a variety of habitats which are suitable for many rare and threatened species,” said DFO, DD Gogoi in a telephonic interview with this Correspondent and added that floods clean and recharge waterbodies of the world heritage site and are also helpful in eradicating harmful weeds from the park.
The DFO said that mimosa is a highly invasive herb which prevents the growth of tall grass and that annual floods, including this year, has been killing a large number of mimosa, thereby helping growth of tall grasses, including tora, which is a fovourite fodder of elephants along with ikora, which are most preferred grass of wild water buffalo and other herbivores.
In an interview with this correspondent in 2004-2005 , the then Director of the park N K Vasu opined that floods help in cleaning up the waterbodies or beels by removing the most harmful weeds - water hyacinth (panimeteka) - from the waterbodies and thus helps in preventing the growth of big trees in the grassland areas. Unless there is flood, the entire park would have been converted into a woodland by the growth of big trees in the grassland areas, which is not suitable for many herbivore species .
“Floods help in depositing a layer of silt which help in growth of trees, shrubs, herb and grass that is much needed for survival of the wildlife in the park ,”said an official of Man & Wild, an NGO, on the condition of anonymity, adding that entire Kaziranga National Park has a flat terrain and flood of the Brahmaputra river enters from the eastern side of the park (through Agaratoli Wildlife Range) and quickly flows through the western corner (through the Bagori Wildlife Range) into the Brahmaputra river.
“A calamity like flood is a natural process and it recedes in 3-4 days. This phenomenon is takes place year after year. This year flood waters entered the park on June 29 and started receding on June 30. As there is no embankment in Kaziranga National Park, flood waters do not stagnate in the park, informed the DFO of the Park, which is also a Tiger Reserve. The DFO said that flood is an integral part of the Kaziranga ecosystem and without flood, Kaziranga National Park would not be a Natural Heritage Site. We should never try to alter the natural flood or natural ecosystem which would have far-reaching negative consequences .
The DFO said that animals in the park , like human beings, can sense the advent of flood much earlier and they take care to migrate to safer place in the month of June, i.e., before floods. All of the animal species are good swimmers.
“In all, 28 percent area of the park is woodland, which is elevated. Animals took shelter in these woodlands during floods this year and some animals migrated to the hills by crossing the NH-37. Even tigers were spotted to have taken shelter in the termite mounds in the woodlands,” Gogoi, who has experience of working more than 5 years in KNP as ACF and DFO, said .
He said that besides animals the staff of the park are highly adapted to flooding and are therefore not stressed. “All of the 152 anti-poaching camps (APC) are built over raised platforms and equipped with boats , raised sanitary facilities raised hand tubewells etc. At the peak of floods this year, only 16 APCs were abandoned temporally for only 3 days and restored soon after,” the DFO said.
Expressing concern and sorrow over the killing of 611 animals from 10 species, he said that the killing of animals due to floods would not have adverse affect on the population of the animals as the Park has a very good population of each species.
“For example, in the flood of June this year, 517 hog deer were killed, but there are still 35,000 hog deer surviving in the park. It killed 16 rhinos, which were old, including 2-3 calf , but still there are over 2,274 rhinos living in the park (out of 2290 as per recent census in 2012) ,besides killing of 2 elephants out of 1165 , 10 swamp deer out of 1169 in the park . Only 260 animals have been rescued by forest staff and people living in the fringe villages and the rest survived on their own,” he maintained. He said that the park had witnessed the highest flood ever in 1988 when only 10,203 casualties had been reported.
When pointed out that some of the critically endangered species like porcupine
(5 nos) and hog badgers (2 nos) were also killed by the floods, which have only a small population in the world, and that the two species might be extinct if such a trend continues, he said that as not a single census has been carried out for these two species, it could not be said whether they would be extinct or not due to floods.
He pointed out apprehensions of the nature lover, that the animals which have already migrated to nearby Karbi Anglong hills are now highly vulnerable to poachers, he said that 10 additional anti-poaching camps from the neighboring forest divisions have been set up since the past several years during floods in order to ensure round the clock vigil on the animals, so that they are not victimised. On erosion threatening the park, including the famous Arimora bungalow , he said that so far he was not aware of erosion taking place at any part of the park as it is difficult to identify eroded areas during flood, but said that erosion is a special characteristic of KNP .
“Erosion also means creation. It erodes one place to create some other (called saporis ) in the Brahmaputra river, which also become ideal habitat for species of the park,” clarified the DFO.