The true impact of the worst floods in two decades on wildlife now begins to emerge even as more rains threaten another floodIntroduction
The recent Assam floods have affected the state extensively. Various sources report that 27 districts of the state were affected, spread over 2809 villages. About 2.2 million people have been affected and about 254,935 hectares of standing crop land damaged. Recent rains have led to a rise in water levels again increasing the possibility of a repeat of the floods from last month.
Impact on Wildlife and Latest Flood Situation (as of July 18th)
During and after flood photos of a local school near KNP (left) and stilted forest camps in KNP (right).
All four photos © Soumen Dey / WWF-India
Kaziranga National Park (KNP): As declared by the State Forest Minister, 611 animals of KNP have died until July 14th that include 16 rhinos, 1 elephant, 517 hog deer, 11 swamp deer, 3 wild buffalos, 21 sambar, 32 wild boars, 5 porcupines, 2 hog badgers, 2 pythons and 1 fox. The numbers are expected to rise once the entire park dries and the forest staff can access the complete park.
The annual floods play an important role in rejuvenating the grasslands and wetlands of Kaziranga and Pobitora. In 1988 & 1998, during the complete flood season, 1023 and 652 deaths of wild animals were recorded in KNP.
At least two rhinos are confirmed to be poached outside KNP as they strayed out. One rhino (adult female) was poached in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on 5th July.
The Chief Minister of Assam, Mr. Gogoi undertook an aerial survey of KNP and adjoining Majuli area on July 15th and later met with the KNP authorities and media at Bokakhat. Speaking to the media, he informed that there is high level discussion going on for exploring possibility of creating high underpasses at selected locations for safety of the animals crossing the highway. He also assured that Assam Govt will take up the security issue of the animals with the Karbi-Anglong council and initiate
appropriate steps. It is understood that the team from NTCA/MoEF has suggested the construction of an overpass on the National Highway section touching KNP.
However, the latest is that the water level is beginning to demonstrate a gradually rising trend again and the level in Nematighat (Jorhat) is about 1m above the Danger Level. If rains continue in the upper catchments of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries then in all likelihood there may be another round of high floods in KNP/Assam during the next 72 hours. The situation is not too good in the western part of the state as well and the water level in the Beki affecting Manas is also rising gradually since July 15th. Pobitora WLS, Burachapori WLS & Laokhowa WLS are all seeing gradual rise in water levels.
Although the present situation is still under control in Kaziranga, there are reports of a gradual rise in water level inside the park since the night of July 14th. Water has risen 2-2.5 feet at Tunikati & Pachim Bimoli Forest Camps, Bagori Range during this period. It is still about two feet below the highest level reached on 28-29 June this year in these camps. As on 168th July, water of Brahmaputra continues to rise and has already swamped 23 camps. If the water levels rise for another 24 hours then a repeat of the June 28-29 floods might occur.
A rhino carcass was recovered under Bagori range two days back and the cause was cited as ‘natural’. Two poachers (said to be from the nieghbouring state of Manipur) were also apprehended from the same range. They had hidden their gun inside the park along with an axe and other weapons, which were also recovered.
All the Protected Areas (PAs) along the banks of the river Brahmaputra in Assam as well as Manas National Park are highly affected as the road and communication network has been damaged. This is expected to have an impact on the patrolling and monitoring of rhinos until the infrastructure of the protected areas is built up to pre-flood levels again.
WWF-India is engaging with the Assam Forest Department to assess the extent of damage that the various PAs of Assam have suffered and will extend the necessary support to beef up the monitoring and patrolling capabilities of the forest staff.
For further information:
Head, Assam Landscapes
M: +91 9435 485 789
Senior Communications Officer
T: +91 11 4150 4783