The 430 km² national park in the center of Assam is one of the last untouched landscapes in northern India. The area is mainly covered by elephant grass and is regularly flooded by the Brahmaputra. It is the refuge of the last Indian rhinos and of tigers, elephants, leopards and water buffalo.
Kaziranga National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Kaziranga National Park|
|Natural monument:||429.96 km² in size and at the foot of the Mikir Hills (up to 1220 m), two thirds covered with up to 5 m high elephant grass and regularly flooded by Brahmaputra, declared a nature reserve in 1908 and finally declared a national park in 1974|
|Location:||on the Brahmaputra River, in the Nagaon and Golaghat District, near Bokakhat|
|Meaning:||the last largely untouched national park in northern India and habitat for the world’s largest group of Indian rhinos|
|Flora and fauna:||tropical rainforest, wetlands, and grasslands; Habitat for 15 endangered mammal species in India, for about 2000 Indian rhinos, about 1250 Indian elephants, also for Ganges dolphins, leopards, tigers, sloth bears, the pig deer, which belongs to the spotted deer, the barasingha, which belongs to the noble deer, and the Indian sambar; also over 100 bird species such as the Indian stork, sunda marabou, bronze fruit pigeon and white tailed fish eagle|
Tanks in the marshland
Morning mist drifts across the swampy plain, out of which the silhouettes of tropical forest islands emerge; the still cool air is filled with strange noises; The elephant makes its way almost silently, guided by quiet commands from its guide, through the meter-high, rustling elephant grass – unforgettable hours of peaceful stalking with binoculars and camera. On the banks of the Brahmaputra, one of the great rivers of the Indian lowlands, the last Indian rhinos in Asia have found a protected refuge in a swampy strip of shore. Only in the Nepalese Royal National Park Chitwan are they granted a similarly safe habitat.
In its external appearance, the flat park, consisting of marshland and elephant grass plains, impenetrable weave of rattan and giant tropical trees, is not very impressive. But the excellent opportunities to observe rare animals make Kaziranga’s special charm, which you only discover at second glance.
The encounter with the rhinos, the most famous residents of the national park, is an exciting experience. Startled by elephants, they rise from their wallows with unwilling grunts; however, the feared attack usually does not take place. Over the years they have long got used to the regular visit, and the frightened tourists on the elephant’s back do not notice them anyway.
The seemingly surprising encounter in the grasslands is by no means a coincidence, because within their territory, which seems so confusing to us, the animals have very specific habits, fixed paths and preferred mud holes, a circumstance that unfortunately also the poachers take advantage of.
Unfortunately, for centuries the rhinoceros has been tainted with a myth that has threatened its very existence. Its horn is considered to promote potency in Far Eastern countries, especially Japan, Taiwan and China, but other parts of the body are also widely used in traditional medicine in the Far East. This ineradicable old wives’ tale has already fallen victim to the largest part of the world’s rhinoceros, together with the advance of the rural population. Tempted by the high prices for the coveted rhinoceros powder, poachers keep trying to hunt down the longed-for prey.
Before Kaziranga was placed under protection, the banks of the Brahmaputra were the preferred target of the big game hunters, who decimated the rhino population to the brink of extinction within a few years. Today just over 2000 of the primeval pachyderms live in the Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga is also vital for the endangered tigers: In 2006 the national park, which has the world’s highest density of tigers with over 80 tigers, was declared a tiger sanctuary.
A fully grown Indian rhinoceros, which Marco Polo thought to be the legendary unicorn in the 14th century, reaches a length of around 3.5 meters, a shoulder height of 1.60 meters and a weight of 2000 kilograms. The horn, from which it owes its Latin name Rhinoceros unicornis, is about 20 centimeters long. According to computerannals, the animal is nicknamed “Indian rhinoceros” from its thick “skin flaps” on its buttocks and flanks, which act like armor, especially since numerous skin knots give the impression of rivets. Rather because of this martial appearance, the rhinoceros has a reputation for being a dangerous contemporary. In fact, however, the peace-loving herbivore is more likely to run away than to rush blindly at an intruder. However, when it comes to protecting the boy,
After a gestation period of 15 to 16 months, the females give birth to a young, which they take care of with loving and vigilant care. Only after two years are the offspring weaned and from then on roam the national park in search of grass, leaves and roots.
The rhinos are Kaziranga’s biggest attraction, but by no means the only one. The visitor will surely see the grouper deer, called “Barasingha”; The park is also home to nimble wild boars, wild water buffalo and elephants. The bird world is even richer. But the ride on the elephant through the swaying grass, which brings long-forgotten childhood memories of Kipling’s »Jungle Book« to life, will be remembered forever.