|Assam's Kaziranga National Park is home to the largest concentration of one-horned rhinos in the world. In 2005, me and my closest friend, Samudra Gupta Kashyap, co-authored a coffee table book to celebrate the centenary of what we think is India's greatest conservation success story. Here are excerpts carried by Tehelka in 2005. Have pasted the first excerpt in full and given the links to the other three parts at the end.|
Rediff.com also carried excerpts here: (http://specials.rediff.com/news/2005/mar/10sld.htm )
So read on to know more about Kaziranga, right now in the news for floods and death of 500 plus animals--incidentally nothing new for the Park!
Part I: http://tehelka.com/story_main12.asp?filename=In060405Kazirangas_pride.asp
When wildlife all over the country is being trapped and slaughtered for money, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam stands as a symbol of hope, write Nitin A. Gokhale and Samudra Gupta Kashyap
This volatile movement of the river is surely responsible for the heavy deposition of silt and the simultaneous formation of beels of various lengths and depths in this area. The landmasses formed by the heavy deposition of silt in this riverine area thus gradually stabilised with the natural growth of saccharum and other grass species. The swift and unpredictable river still erodes a large portion of the land mass, particularly in those areas where bigger trees have not yet sprung up. Those who have observed Kaziranga over the past few decades have witnessed this on-going process of erosion and deposition of silt on the northern boundary of the park, which is the Brahmaputra river itself.
The Kaziranga National Park, whose area has gone up from the originally notified area of 428.7 sq km to the current 860 sq km today, lies between Latitude 26.04 N and 26.46 N and Longitude 93.08 E and 93.36 E. The terrain of the park is by and large flat with a gentle and almost imperceptible slope from east to west as also from north to south.
Since the area falls under a heavy rainfall zone, the mean annual rainfall between 1993 and 2003 has been 1881 mm. The rainfall is at its heaviest in the months from May to September which is also the flood season in the region, compelling the authorities to keep the park closed for visitors for nearly six months of the year. Therefore, the best time to visit the park is from November to May since the rains are scanty and the temperatures are pleasant. In December and January, the minimum temperature is known to have gone down to 11 degrees Celsius with the park often enveloped in dense fog during the night and early morning.
Those who have visited the park frequently have noticed that the area is swampy and criss-crossed by a number of channels that originate from the Brahmaputra and flow out to it again. As a combined result of this criss-crossing, and earthquakes and silt deposits that come down from the Eastern Himalayas, Kaziranga is blessed with many permanent water bodies locally known as beels. The Brahmaputra follows a braiding pattern that has created numerous islands, which are locally called chars and chaporis.
Given its climate and terrain, Kaziranga is regarded as the largest undivided flood-plain grassland and forest area of the Brahmaputra Valley. As much as 64 percent of the original Kaziranga National Park area is grassland, while seven to eight percent comprises various water bodies like beels and river channels. The rest, which is nearly 28 percent, is covered with woodland. The physical features of the park apart, it also falls in the junction of the Australasia Flyway and the Indo-Asian Flyway, thus adding to the rich diversity in avi-faunal species. According to noted ornithologist Anwaruddin Choudhury, “Kaziranga is among the most important wintering grounds in the world for the Bar-headed Goose and Ferruginous Duck, of which the latter species is considered rare all over its range.”
Historically, this area bounded by the Brahmaputra on the north, river Kaliyani on the east, Karbi Anglong hills on the south and Koliabor in the west, used to be part of Khagorijan district of the Ahom kingdom till 1926. The eastern portion of present day Kaziranga was better known as Moriyahola and the western part as Bhogdwar. This area was an important transit post of the Ahoms whose messengers used to travel from Sivasagar to Guwahati and back, while an important officer of the naval wing used to operate from here. There was a reason for a naval officer to be posted here of course. Kaziranga, before the devastating earthquake of 1897, used to be at the confluence of two big rivers — Dihing and Luit — while the downstream portion was called Bornoi (big river) which we now know as the Brahmaputra.
When the British annexed Assam in 1826 following the Yandaboo Treaty with the Burmese who had earlier occupied large portions of the Ahom kingdom, they readjusted the boundaries and included this area in the newly-created Sibsagar district. In the new dispensation, the present-day Kaziranga then came to be known as Nam-Doyang. As tea was ‘discovered’ in 1836 (though it was already growing naturally in Assam and was being consumed by the locals), the British threw open the area for tea plantations resulting in large-scale destruction of forests. Some tea gardens that came up in the area are Hathikuli, Methoni, Diffloo, Naharjan, Ekrajan, Borchapori and Behora. All these gardens, owned by different companies, are now inseparable from Kaziranga. The late Forbes, who hosted Lady Curzon’s landmark visit in January 1905, was manager of the Naharajan tea estate that still exists close to the Park.
One of the earliest references about Kaziranga can be found in a book authored by a Britisher way back in 1800. Dr John Peter Wade, a surgeon attached to the first British military contingent that was dispatched to help the Ahoms fight the Burmese invaders, writes in his book An Account of Assam, first published in 1800: “Kaziranga lies to the east and south-east of Rungulighur; and Namdoyungh to the eastward above Khonarmook or Sonarmook; the country here is low, and subject to inundation. It extends about six miles in length, from the causeway to Bassa, and four in breadth to the foot of the mountains from Namdoyungh.”
Montogomery Martin in his book, Studies in Indian History, published in 1838, spells Kaziranga as Casirunga and repeats what Dr Wade had said 38 years before him... There is, however, no mention of wildlife or a rhino in Martin’s book.
Excerpted from Kaziranga — the rhino century by Nitin A. Gokhale and Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Part III: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main12.asp?filename=In061805poachers_on.asp
Part IV: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main12.asp?filename=In062505Mission_Possible.asp