Welcome to the Kaziranga National Park, which can be likened to a giant painting with lush greens above the vast blue, punctuated by myriad animals and birds flitting about.
Located in the heart of Assam, Kaziranga is in one of the last areas of Eastern India free of human presence, covering a staggering 42,000 hectares. A proud UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kaziranga National Park is a haven for animal and bird lovers. Located in the Nagaon and Golaghat districts of Assam within the mighty Brahmaputra River’s floodplain, the forest is home and habitat to a vast fauna and flora.
THE VAST VARIETY
The terms ‘largest’, ‘only’ and ‘highest’ are used in common parlance for the Kaziranga National Park. Statistically, the park is home to the largest population of the magnificent one-horned rhinoceros, corresponding to nearly two-thirds of the global population of this species. Kaziranga is synonymous to the one-horned rhino and according to the Rhino Population Estimation held by the National Park Authorities in 2015, there were 2,401 great Indian rhinoceros at Kaziranga at that time. The splendid creature weighs around five tons and its sheer presence commands respect and awe. Before entering the perimeter of the national park, as one drives through the National Highway 37, one can view the rhino at a distance with its silent gaze fixed on infinity. Kaziranga also has the highest density of tigers in the world – one per every five square kilometers. Thus, the forest was also declared a ‘Tiger Reserve’ in 2006. Besides, the most number of Asiatic water buffalos in the world are also found here, totting up to more than 50 per cent of the total population.
You have to look sharp to spot the diminutive, yet sprightly eastern swamp deer as he gazelles past. The park is home to the world’s highest population of this species. Besides, the only ape species found in India, the Hoolock Gibbons, also inhabits Kaziranga and because it is the only one in the country, it is undeniably a precious sight in the forest. Moreover, two of the largest snakes in the world, the reticulated python and the rock python and also the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra, can be found coiled among the trees here.
TIME TO LOOK UP!
Kaziranga is home to multiple bird species and is also identified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ by Birdlife International, a global organisation that is focused on conservation of birds and their habitat. The ornithologist in you will be excited to spot the lesser adjunct (a large wading bird of the stork family), black-necked stork, white-bellied heron, baer’s pochard (a diving duck), great Indian hornbill and the dalmatian pelican, among many others. Some of the birds of prey include the pallas’ fish eagle, the lesser kestrel, the rare Eastern imperial, three different species of vultures and the grey-headed fish eagle. Besides, the Asian open bill storks migrate all the way from Central Asia in the winters to roost at the National Park.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Ever wondered why the yellow-coloured marigold was referred to as ‘Genda phul’ in Hindi. The story goes that the rhino, or genda in Hindi, is a civilized creature and defecates only in one particular spot. Surprisingly, the marigold blooms in this very dung pit and thus the name.
Text: Adnan Hamid