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Kaziranga Tiger Reserve

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Kaziranga Tiger Reserve

Kaziranga National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Kaziranga is the most important stronghold for the Indian Rhinoceros
Location Golaghat and Nagaon districts, Assam, India
Nearest city Jorhat, Tezpur
Coordinates
Area 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi)
Established 1905
Governing body Government of India, Government of Assam
Official name: Kaziranga National Park
Type: Natural
Criteria: ix, x
Designated: 1985 (9th session)
Reference No. 337
State Party: India
Region: Asia-Pacific

Kaziranga National Park (Assamese: কাজিৰঙা ৰাষ্ট্ৰীয় উদ্যান, Kazirônga Rastriyô Udyan, pronounced  ( )) is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. A World Heritage Site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world's Great One-horned Rhinoceroses.[1] Kaziranga boasts the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.[2] Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International for conservation of avifaunal species. Compared to other protected areas in India, Kaziranga has achieved notable success in wildlife conservation. Located on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, the park combines high species diversity and visibility.

Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, crisscrossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water. Kaziranga has been the theme of several books, songs, and documentaries. The park celebrated its centennial in 2005 after its establishment in 1905 as a reserve forest.

History

Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and her husband are credited with starting the movement to protect this area

The history of Kaziranga as a protected area can be traced back to 1904, when Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston, the wife of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, visited the area. After failing to see a single rhinoceros, for which the area was renowned, she persuaded her husband to take urgent measures to protect the dwindling species which he did by initiating planning for their protection.[3] On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2 (90 sq mi).[4]

Over the next three years, the park area was extended by 152 km2 (59 sq mi), to the banks of the Brahmaputra River.[5] In 1908, Kaziranga was designated a Reserve Forest. In 1916, it was redesignated as a game sanctuary—The Kaziranga Game Sanctuary—and remained so till 1938, when hunting was prohibited and visitors were permitted to enter the park.

The Kaziranga Game Sanctuary was renamed the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950 by P. D. Stracey, the forest conservationist, in order to rid the name of hunting connotations. In 1954, the government of Assam passed the Assam (Rhinoceros) Bill, which imposed heavy penalties for rhinoceros poaching. Fourteen years later, in 1968, the state government passed the Assam National Park Act of 1968, declaring Kaziranga a designated national park. The 430 km2 (166 sq mi) park was given official status by the central government on 11 February 1974. In 1985, Kaziranga was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its unique natural environment.

Kaziranga has been the target of several natural and man-made calamities in recent decades. Floods caused by the overflow of the river Brahmaputra, leading to significant losses of animal life.[6] Encroachment by people along the periphery has also led to a diminished forest cover and a loss of habitat. An ongoing separatist movement in Assam led by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has crippled the economy of the region,[7] but Kaziranga has remained unaffected by the movement; indeed, instances of rebels from the United Liberation Front of Assam protecting the animals and, in extreme cases, killing poachers, have been reported since the 1980s.[3]

The park celebrated its centenary with much fanfare in 2005, inviting descendants of Lord and Lady Curzon for the celebrations. In early 2007, elephants and two rhinoceroses were relocated to Manas National Park, the first recorded instance of elephants being moved from one national park in India to another.[8]

Etymology

Grassland of Kaziranga National Park
Inside Kaziranga national Park

Although the etymology of the name Kaziranga is not certain, there exist a number of possible explanations derived from local legends and records. According to one legend, a girl named Ranga, from a nearby village, and a youth named Kazi, from Karbi Anglong, fell in love. This match was not acceptable to their families, and the couple disappeared into the forest, never to be seen again, and the forest was named after them. According to another legend, Srimanta Sankardeva, the sixteenth century Vaisnava saint-scholar, once blessed a childless couple, Kazi and Rangai, and asked them to dig a big pond in the region so that their name would live on.[9]

Testimony to the long history of the name can be found in some records, which state that once, while the Ahom king Pratap Singha was passing by the region during the seventeenth century, he was particularly impressed by the taste of fish, and on asking was told it came from Kaziranga.[10] Kaziranga also could mean the "Land of red goats (Deer)", as the word Kazi in the Karbi language means "goat", and Rangai means "red".[10]

Some historians believe, however, that the name Kaziranga was derived from the Karbi word Kajir-a-rang, which means "the village of Kajir" (kajiror gaon). Among the Karbis, Kajir is a common name for a girl child, and it was believed that a woman named Kajir once ruled over the area. Fragments of monoliths associated with Karbi rule found scattered in the area seem to bear testimony to this assertion.

Geography

Map of the Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga is located between latitudes 26°30' N and 26°45' N, and longitudes 93°08' E to 93°36' E within two districts in the Indian state of Assam—the Kaliabor subdivision of Nagaon district and the Bokakhat subdivision of Golaghat district.

The park is approximately 40 km (25 mi) in length from east to west, and 13 km (8 mi) in breadth from north to south.[11] Kaziranga covers an area of 378 km2 (146 sq mi), with approximately 51.14 km2 (20 sq mi) lost to erosion in recent years.[11] A total addition of 429 km2 (166 sq mi) along the present boundary of the park has been made and designated with separate national park status to provide extended habitat for increasing the population of wildlife or, as a corridor for safe movement of animals to Karbi Anglong Hills.[12] :p.06 Elevation ranges from 40 m (131 ft) to 80 m (262 ft). The park area is circumscribed by the Brahmaputra River, which forms the northern and eastern boundaries, and the Mora Diphlu, which forms the southern boundary. Other notable rivers within the park are the Diphlu and Mora Dhansiri.[13] :p.05

Kaziranga has flat expanses of fertile, alluvial soil, formed by erosion and silt deposition by the River Brahmaputra. The landscape consists of exposed sandbars, riverine flood-formed lakes known as, beels, (which make up 5% of the surface area), and elevated regions known as, chapories, which provide retreats and shelter for animals during floods. Many artificial chapories have been built with the help of the Indian Army to ensure the safety of the animals.[14][15] Kaziranga is one of the largest tracts of protected land in the sub-Himalayan belt, and due to the presence of highly diverse and visible species, has been described as a "biodiversity hotspot".[16] The park is located in the Indomalaya ecozone, and the dominant biomes of the region are Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests of the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome and a frequently flooded variant of the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands of the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome.

Climate

The park experiences three seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. The winter season, between November and February, is mild and dry, with a mean high of 25 °C (77 °F) and low of 5 °C (41 °F). During this season, beels and nallahs (water channels) dry up.[13]:p.06 The summer season between March and May is hot, with temperatures reaching a high of 37 °C (99 °F). During this season, animals usually are found near water bodies.[13]:p.06 The rainy monsoon season lasts from June to September, and is responsible for most of Kaziranga's annual rainfall of 2,220 mm (87 in). During the peak months of July and August, three-fourths of the western region of the park is submerged, due to the rising water level of the Brahmaputra. The flooding causes most animals to migrate to elevated and forested regions outside the southern border of the park, such as the Mikir hills. 540 animals,including 13 rhinos and mostly hog deers perished in unprecedented floods of 2012.[17] [18] However, occasional dry spells create problems as well, such as food shortages and occasional forest fires.[19]

Fauna

Kaziranga contains significant breeding populations of 35 mammalian species,[20] of which 15 are threatened as per the IUCN Red List. The park has the distinction of being home to the world's largest population of the Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros (1,855),[21][22] Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo (1,666)[23] and Eastern Swamp Deer (468).[24] Significant populations of large herbivores include elephants (1,940),[25] gaur (30) and sambar (58). Small herbivores include the Indian Muntjac, wild boar, and hog deer.[18][26] Kaziranga has the largest population of the Wild water buffalo anywhere accounting for about 57% of the world population.[27]

Kaziranga is one of the few wild breeding areas outside Africa for multiple species of large cats, such as Indian Tigers and Leopards.[20] Kaziranga was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 and has the highest density of tigers in the world (one per five km²), with a population of 118,according to the latest census.[21] Other felids include the Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, and Leopard Cats.[20] Small mammals include the rare Hispid Hare, Indian Gray Mongoose, Small Indian Mongooses, Large Indian Civet, Small Indian Civets, Bengal Fox, Golden Jackal, Sloth Bear, Chinese Pangolin, Indian Pangolins, Hog Badger, Chinese Ferret Badgers, and Particolored flying squirrels.[18][20] Nine of the 14 primate species found in India occur in the park.[3] Prominent among them are the Assamese Macaque, Capped, Golden Langur, as well as the only ape found in India, the Hoolock Gibbon.[18][20] Kaziranga's rivers are also home to the endangered Ganges Dolphin.

An Indian Roller at Kaziranga

Kaziranga has been identified by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area.[28] It is home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers, and game birds. Birds such as the Lesser White-fronted Goose, Ferruginous Duck, Baer's Pochard duck and Lesser Adjutant, Greater Adjutant, Black-necked Stork, and Asian Openbill stork migrate from Central Asia to the park during winter.[29] Riverine birds include the Blyth's Kingfisher, White-bellied Heron, Dalmatian Pelican, Spot-billed Pelican, Nordmann's Greenshank, and Black-bellied Tern.[29]:p.10 Birds of prey include the rare Eastern Imperial, Greater Spotted, White-tailed, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, and the Lesser Kestrel.[30]

Kaziranga was once home to seven species of vultures, but the vulture population reached near extinction, supposedly by feeding on animal carcasses containing the drug Diclofenac.[31] Only the Indian Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture, and Indian White-rumped Vulture have survived.[31] Game birds include the Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, and Pale-capped Pigeon.[29]:p.03

Other families of birds inhabiting Kaziranga include the Great Indian Hornbill and Wreathed Hornbill, Old World babblers such as Jerdon’s and Marsh Babblers, weaver birds such as the common Baya Weaver, threatened Finn's Weavers, thrushes such as Hodgson's Bushchat and Old World warblers such as the Bristled Grassbird. Other threatened species include the Black-breasted Parrotbill and the Rufous-vented Prinia.[29]:p.07–13

Two of the largest snakes in the world, the Reticulated Python and Rock Python, as well as the longest venomous snake in the world, the King Cobra, inhabit the park. Other snakes found here include the Indian Cobra, Monocled Cobra, Russell's Viper, and the Common Krait.[20] Monitor lizard species found in the park include the Bengal monitor and the Water Monitor.[20] Other reptiles include fifteen species of turtle, such as the endemic Assam Roofed Turtle and one species of tortoise, the Brown Tortoise.[20] 42 species of fish are found in the area, including the Tetraodon.[20]

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