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The Indian One Horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park

Assam is one of the richest Biodiversity areas in the World. Having five (5) National Parks and eighteen (18) Wildlife Sanctuaries, these forest areas harbor a wide variety of flora, fauna and avifauna. From the mighty One Horned Rhinoceros, the Indian Tigers, Asiatic Elephants, Hoolock Gibbons, Golden langurs, etc. Assam has a plethora of varied fauna that are not to be found anywhere in this world. Assam is surrounded by the Indian States of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. The State also shares its international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan and is at close proximity to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The unique biodiversity of Assam has earned the state a distinct reputation of unspoilt natural wonders, huge biodiversity surrounded by numerous tea plantations. Considered to be among the richest biodiversity zones in the World, Assam harbors a wide variety of riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards, tropical and deciduous forests that constitute to the diverse floral wealth of the State. Protecting these wide variety of flora and fauna has always been of a prime interest of the State that has resulted in the creation of 5 important National Parks in the World at Kaziranga, Manas, Nameri, Orang and Dibru Saikhowa. In addition, a distinct floral and faunal wealth is found in abundance across the 18 Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam.

Of the five National Parks of Assam, the Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park have earned the distinct reputation of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Project Tiger Reserve. What harbors a wide wealth of the floral and faunal species at these National Parks and Wildlife sanctuaries of Assam is the mighty Brahmaputra river and its major tributaries. The Brahmaputra each year fills the area across Assam with silt that is one of the purest forms of soil that helps in the growth of various trees, grasses and shrubs required for the herbivores of the National Parks with abundance of food in supply these animal species find it easy to survive in Assam. The presence of the herbivores in these National Parks of Assam ensures availability of food for the carnivores here. Thriving on smaller animals these carnivores that are now almost on the verge of extinction across other parts of the World have found a great conservation success story. Assam’s Kaziranga National Park has narrated a successful conservation story of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and the Indian Tigers as the flagship species. Assam is home to a numeros last refuge of endangered and threatened species of the likes of Golden Langur, Capped Langur, Asiatic Wild Water Buffalo, Burmese pythons, Assam roofed turtle, Black pond turtle, Bengal floricans, Rufous necked hornbill, Ganges shark, Ganges Dolphin, etc. all surviving in the protected National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Assam.

1| Kaziranga National Park – Assam

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Welcome to Kaziranga National Park at the Bagori Safari range

When the name Assam comes to the mind of any traveller, the first name that comes to mind is that of Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga National Park is the unique identity that defines Assam to the outside World for its successful conservation story of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros species from almost a dwindling number to more than 3000 of these animals are to be found here at Kaziranga National Park today. Kaziranga National Park is also a Tiger Reserve having the highest population density of tigers in any protected area in the World and also the same for the Indian Elephants, Swamp Deers and the Asiatic Wild Water Buffaloes. Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also an Important Bird Area (IBA) with around 495 species of birds both resident and migratory to be found here at Kaziranga National Park. But to what draws most visitors to Kaziranga National Park is the population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros that is the flagship species of this National Park in Assam. In addition to Kaziranga National Park, the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros is also to be found at Manas National Park, Orang National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam but Kaziranga National Park is known to have been the success story of the conservation of this wild animal and also the home of the highest population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros in the World.

The Milestones of Kaziranga National Park:

  • In 1905, the first notice came up to declare Kaziranga as a Reserve Forest and it went on to be declared as the Kaziranga Reserve Forest in 1908
  • Moving forward in 1916, Kaziranga Reserve Forest was declared as a Game Sanctuary
  • Kaziranga Sanctuary was opened to visitors in 1937 and in 1950 it was declared as the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as Kaziranga National Park in 1974
  • UNESCO conferred the World Heritage status to Kaziranga National Park in 1985
  • The year 2005 marked the centenary celebration of the success in the conservation story at Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is blessed with the abundance of flora that allows the various herbivores to survive and thrive inside the park and the carnivores in turn feed on the herbivores following the food chain cycle. The area inside the park is blessed with numerous swamps and wetlands and also the Kaziranga National Park is surrounded by the Brahmaputra river and its tributaries that give rise to various aquatic plants, aquatic life and this favours the varied birdlife of Kaziranga National Park.

It can be will said that Kaziranga National Park is a vast expanse of tall grasslands that comprises almost 42% of the National Park that is divided mostly into four safari zones viz. Central (Kohora), Western (Bagori), Eastern (Agoratoli) and the Burapahar range. New ranges have been added recently at Panbari and Bokakhat. But all is not a boon for Kaziranga National Park, the annual floods of Assam that occur every year in the monsoon season creates a havoc across Assam as well as Kaziranga National Park and these floods inundate almost 90% of Kaziranga National Park and the animals have to seek refuge across the highlands of the nearby Karbi Anglong hills. While some are able to make it to the highlands many of them perish in the flood waters and this causes a lot of loss of animal life especially the Rhinoceros, Hog Deers and Wild Boars here at Kaziranga National Park. There are presence of artificial highlands inside the Park constructed by the local authorities but the numbers are not sufficient for the animal population of Kaziranga National Park.

These annual floods though they cause devastation in the form of casualty of animals, shortage of fodder, displacement of animals, destruction of infrastructure of Kaziranga National Park but these floods are also a boon as the annual floods are necessary to maintain the ecological balance of the grasslands and forest. Once the floods are over, the animals return to the interiors of Kaziranga National Park and in the month of October, the gates of Kaziranga National Park are opened to tourists again and visitors from across the World come to visit Kaziranga National Park to admire the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park and the place stays open to tourists up to May until the monsoons arrive again.

2| Manas National Park – Assam

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Welcome to the Entrance at the Manas National Park ~ Manas ~ Assam ~ India

Manas National Park is located in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas along the banks of the river Manas in the Barpeta, Kamrup, Darrang, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts of Assam. Manas National Park is a beautiful Biodiversity rich area that harbors a wide species of endangered flora, fauna and avifauna species. At present, Manas National Park in Assam holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve, an Elephant Reserve as well as a Wildlife Sanctuary.

Manas National Park is covered entirely with deep and dense forests with the river Manas flowing across it acting as a natural barrier between the countries of India and Bhutan. Manas National Park extends up to Bhutan where it is names as the Royal Bhutan National Park.

Along with River Manas which is a major tributary of the Brahmaputra river, the rivers like the tributaries of River Manas viz. Baki and Bholladuba and five other smaller rivers flows through Manas National Park. These rivers bring in fresh soil each year that harbors a rich biodiversity area at Manas National Park which has alluvial grasslands, forested hills and tropical evergreen forests. Located at an elevation of 85 m above the sea level, Manas National Park is divided into 3 ranges namely (i) Western Range at Panbari (ii) Central Range at Bansbari and (iii) Eastern Range at Bhuiyapara. All these ranges have diverse flora, fauna, rare and endangered endemic wildlife of the likes of Golden langurs, Red Panda, One Horned Rhinoceros, Leopards, Clouded leopards and the Black panthers. As per the IUCN Redbook, Manas National Park holds the maximum number of endangered species in India along with the Indian Tigers and Manas is home to the second largest population of tigers in India.

Manas National Park’s History in brief – 

  • Kings of the Royal family of Cooch Behar and the King of Gauripur used this area as a hunting reserve earlier
  • 1905 – Manas proposed as a reserve forest
  • 1907 – Manas declared as a reserve forest
  • 1928 – Manas Reserve Forest declared as Manas Game Sanctuary
  • 1950 – Manas Game Sanctuary declared as Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
  • 1973 – Manas Wildlife Sanctuary declared as Project Tiger Reserve
  • 1980 – Manas Wildlife Sanctuary declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • 1989 – Manas Wildlife Sanctuary declared as Biosphere Reserve
  • 1990 – Manas Wildlife Sanctuary declared as Manas National Park
  • 2003 – Manas National Park declared as an Elephant Reserve

Manas National Park has a varied floral wealth in the form of low alluvial savanna woodlands, east himalayan moist dry deciduous forests, semi evergreen alluvial grassland and sub himalayan light alluvial grasslands. Dominant flora at Manas National Park consists of the likes of Syzygium cumini, Bauhinia purpurea, Syzygium oblatum, Dillenia indica, Mallotus philippensis, Cinnamomum tamala, Dillenia pentagyna, Bombax ceiba, Actinodaphne obovata, Sterculia villosa, Careya arborea, Lagerstroemia parviflora, Terminalia bellirica, Lagerstroemia speciosa, Trewia polycarpa, Terminalia chebula, Gmelina arborea, etc. Dominant fauna at Manas National Park are the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, Indian Tigers, Leopards, Clouded Leopard, Hoolock Gibbons, Asian golden cats, Black Panthers, Asian Water Buffaloes, Sambar Deers, Smooth-coated Otters, Assamese Macaques, Asiatic Elephants, Capped Langurs, Gaurs, , Barking Deer, Hog Deer, Golden Langurs, Slow Loris, Chital, etc. Birds to be found at Manas National Park are Brahminy Ducks, , Giant Hornbill, Jungle Fowls, Bulbuls, , Egrets, Pelicans, Pied Hornbills, Bengal Florican, Red-headed Trogon, Grey Hornbills, Ibis bill, Serpent Eagles, Mergansers, Falcons, Magpie Robins, Swamp Francolin, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Jerdon’s Babblers, Pied Harrier, Scarlet Minivets, Fishing Eagles, , Bee-Eaters, Harriers, Como duck etc.

3| Nameri National Park – Assam

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Welcome to the Entrance at the Nameri National Park ~ Nameri ~ Assam ~ India

Are you interested in Wildlife trekking? Do you want to experience cose views of varied flora and fauna of Assam? Nameri National Park in Assam is the right place to visit if your answer to the above questions is yes. The second tiger reserve in Assam, Nameri National Park is the important conservation area for Indian tigers, Asiatic elephants, Leopards, Clouded leopards, Capped langurs, etc. Nameri National Park was originally created as a protective habitat for the white winged duck species and is now an Important bird area with various species of birds to be spotted here including the four species of Hornbill, totalling to over 370 bird species to be found here at Nameri National Park.

In addition, to wildlife trekking to spot the various species of flora, fauna and avifauna, Nameri National Park provides its visitors a unique experience to try river rafting on the Jia Bhoreli river. The River Jia Bhoreli flows across the area of the Nameri National Park along with its major tributaries viz. the Dinai, Diji, Doigurung, Nameri, Dikorai, etc.

Located in the Sonitpur district of Assam, Nameri National Park is surrounded by the towering mountains of the Eastern Himalayas. A very beautiful and rice place in terms of its floral and faunal wealth, the forests of Nameri National Park are filled with moist deciduous, semi-evergreen and tropical evergreen forests. Though there are presence of grasslands too in Nameri National Park, the dominant species are the evergreen and deciduous trees itself. Nameri National Park borders the State of Arunachal Pradesh to its north sharing the area with the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary and has a total area of 200 sq. km. The Inhabitants of the Nameri National Park belong to the local Assamese and Mishing tribe villages.

A brief history of Nameri National Park

  • Originally created for protecting the habitat of the White Winged Wood Duck
  • 1978 – Nameri was declared as a Reserve Forest
  • 1985 – Nameri Reserve Forest was declared as Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary
  • 1998 – Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as the Nameri National Park
  • 1999 – Nameri National Park was declared as a Project Tiger Reserve

Nameri National Park has an extensive and diverse ecosystem filled with varied flora and fauna. Dominant Flora species found in Nameri National Park are Cinnamomum cecicodaphnea, Castanopsis indica, Cordia dichotoma, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Litsea sebifera, Dillenia indica, Endospermum chinense, Duabanga grandiflora, Duabanga sonneratoides, Pseudostachyum polymorphisms, Dysoxylum procerum, Lagerstroemia flos-reginae, , Mesua ferrea, Morus roxburghii, Premna bengalensis, etc. A wide floral diversity also harbors a good strength of incredible floral species. Some of the faunal diversity found at the Nameri National Park and Tiger Reserve are Himalayan Black Bear, Indian Tigers, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Black Panther, Sloth Bear, Elephant, Sambar, Dhole, Indian Bison, Hispid Hare, Capped Langur, Barking Deer, Dog Deer, Fox, , Indian Hare, Himalayan yellow Throated Martin, Slow Loris, Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, Malayan giant Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Wild Pig, etc. Nameri also boasts of having over 370 species of birds both resident and migrant. Some of the Bird species to be found at Nameri National Park are Great Pied Hornbill, White winged wood duck, Rufous Necked Hornbill, Ibis Bill, Wreathed Hornbill, Black Stork, Large Whistling Teal, Long Billed Ring Plover, King Vulture, Khaleej Pheasant, Hill Myna, Himalayan pied Kingfisher, Pin tailed green Pigeon, Greater spotted Eagle, Three Toed kingfisher, etc. Reptiles species to be spotted at Nameri National Park are Malayan Box Turtle, Python, King cobra, Banded Krait, Russell’s Viper, Pit Viper, Rat Snake, Keeled Box turtle, Assam Roof Turtle, Narrow Headed softshell Turtle, Asian Leaf Turtle, Indian soft Shelled Turtle, etc.

4| Dibru Saikhowa National Park – Assam

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Feral Horses at Dibru Saikhowa National Park at Tinsukia ~ Tinsukia ~ Assam ~ India. Image – Rajib Saikia

Dibru Saikhowa National Park is located in the Tinsukia district of Upper Assam and is known for its population of the Feral horses, Asiatic water buffaloes, Indian tigers, Elephants, Hoolock gibbons, Leopards, Gangetic river dolphins, Capped langurs and various species of birds including the very rare White winged wood duck. The area of the Dibru Saikhowa National Park is crossed by the Dibru river and the Brahmaputra river. The park is bounded by the Patkai hills in the south and the Arunachal hills in the north. Endowed with tropical monsoon climate, the Dibru Saikhowa National Park is the largest salix swamp forest in North East India. Although it is known for its varied fauna species, however the Dibru Saikhowa National Park is very well known for its varied species of orchids and birds. Various species of migratory birds flock to this National Park especially during winters and the park becomes a bird watchers paradise and visitors from across the world gather here to sight the majestic Ruddy Shelducks, Bengal florican, Hornbills and the endangered and rare White winged wood duck species.

Covering an area of around 340 sq km, the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere reserve was set up to protect the grasslands and swamp habitat of the floodplains of the river Brahmaputra while the park is divided into nine distinct zones with one wetland and the others surrounded by dense forests. Dibru Saikhowa National Park is an ideal place for various adventure sports and jungle trekking. The age old Banyan tree inside the Dibru Saikhowa National Park premises is a major tourist attraction along with the Saal Beel here. Dibru Saikhowa National Park is the only National Park in India that allows its visitors to catch a glimpse of the varied flora and fauna of the park aboard a river cruise. River boats both small and big plying on the waters of the river Dibru here take visitors on an exciting journey of the National Park to sight the various species of orchids, feral horses and river dolphins.

A brief history of Dibru Saikhowa National Park

  • Originally created for protecting the habitat of the White Winged Wood Duck
  • 1890 – Area was declared as Dibru Reserve Forest
  • 1929 – Saikhowa Reserve Forest was added
  • 1986 – Area declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary
  • 1999 – Declared as the Dibru Saikhowa National Park

5| Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park – Assam

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Welcome to the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park ~ Orang ~ Assam ~ India

The Orang National Park is also known as the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park and is located approximately 140 km from Guwahati in the Darrang and Sonitpur districts of Assam. The Orang National Park is often referred to as the mini Kaziranga of Assam and is spread across an area of 79 sq. km. Orang National Park’s Landscapes made up of streams, marshes and grasslands resembles the topography of the Kaziranga National Park. Orang is known for its population of the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Originally established a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985, Orang was declared as a National Park in 1999.

Orang National Park contains significant breeding populations of several fauna species. Apart from the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros the other key species sharing the habitat are the Royal Bengal Tigers ,Asiatic Elephants, Pygmy Hog, Hog Deer, etc.

More than 50 species of fish have been recorded in the river and channels flowing through the Orang National park.

The Orang National Park is home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers and game birds. A total of 222 species of birds have so far been recorded, some of which are: spot-billed pelican, great white pelican, black-necked stork , greater adjutant stork, lesser adjutant stork, ruddy shelduck, etc. Migratory birds as far as from America such as the milky American white pelicans have also been reported in the park.

Among reptiles, seven species of turtle and tortoise are found in Orang National Park, out of which turtle varieties such as Lissemys punctata, Kachuga tecta are common. Among snakes, pythons and cobras are recorded here. Indian rock python, black krait, king cobra, cobra, monitor lizard are the reptiles found here.

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