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Jeep safaris only: Parts of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve reopen for tourists

Kaziranga is famed for being home to 2/3rd of the global one-horned rhinoceros population. The national park also has 121 tigers.

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New Delhi: Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) in Assam was reopened for tourists Sunday for the season 2022-23. Home to over 2,600 Indian one-horned rhinoceros, Kaziranga is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The national park, which falls under the jurisdiction of Eastern Assam Wildlife division of the state forest department, was closed for tourists since May on account of inclement road conditions at the onset of monsoon. Parts of it — Kohora range and Western/Bagori range — have now been opened, but only for jeep safaris.

“At present, tourists are allowed to travel up to Bimoli Tiniali via Donga tower under Western Range, Bagori and from Mihimukh via Daflang tower to Vaichamari Junction under Kaziranga Range, Kohora till further notification/orders,” read a general notice issued Saturday by Ramesh Kumar Gogoi, divisional forest officer of Eastern Assam Wildlife Division in Bokakhat.

The national park was declared open for tourists by Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma and Isha Foundation founder Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva on 22 September. Its first guests for this season were ministers and bureaucrats of the Assam government who attended a three-day Chintan Shivir (brainstorming session) at Kaziranga from 24-26 September.

The highlight of the programme, however, was a police complaint against Sarma, Sadhguru and state tourism  minister Jayanta Malla Baruah, among others, for allegedly violating the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, by undertaking a jeep safari with the vehicle’s headlights blazing after dusk.


 Also Read: How saving the rhino became as commercial an enterprise in Kaziranga as poaching


Why Kaziranga is tourist hotspot

Designated a reserve forest in 1908 on the recommendation of Mary Curzon, wife of then Viceroy of India George Curzon, Kaziranga is located in Golaghat and Nagaon districts, on the edge of Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot. 

Spread over an area of approximately 430 sq km, it is home to almost 2/3rd of the world’s one-horned rhinoceros population. 

Just last month, the chief minister of Assam unveiled three rhino statues, also known as ‘Abode of the Unicorns’, at Mihimukh in Kaziranga. These statues were made using the ashes collected after burning a stockpile of 2,479 rhino horns confiscated by authorities.

'Abode of the Unicorns' sculpture at Mihimukh | ANI
‘Abode of the Unicorns’ sculpture at Mihimukh | ANI

In addition to the one-horned rhinoceros, the park is a breeding ground for elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. Kaziranga was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2007 and is now home to at least 121 big cats.

Moreover, BirdLife International – an NGO working to conserve birds and their habitats – recognises Kaziranga as an ‘Important Bird Area’ where the lesser white-fronted goose, ferruginous duck, Baer’s pochard duck, lesser adjutant, greater adjutant, black-necked stork, and Asian Openbill stork are found.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)


Also Read: Why scientists are hanging rhinos upside-down from helicopters


 

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