Beyond the Flood | WWF India

In 2017, Assam saw its worst flood in 29 years. Causing tremendous death and destruction, the flood took place in three waves in April, August and September 2017. While these calamities are not easy for anyone, their affects on animals often go unnoticed.

Pramjat Borah, a farmer and cattle owner in Nagaon was very worried about his cows after the fierce flood hit his village in Nagaon district, Assam in August 2017. Pramjat owns eight cows, who form a major source of livelihood for his family.

‘’While a lot of crop had already been destroyed, the cows and goats were also falling sick because their feed got washed away and they were eating mud and drinking dirty water for a long time. The water had reached my waist – it was difficult to even get my cows out of the shed for three days,” Pramjat said. Caused by the sudden breaking of the Hatimura embankment, the flood caused extensive damage to crops and property in many villages.

To prevent the spreading of diseases amongst the livestock population, WWF-India undertook various veterinary health camps across nine villages spread over the two districts of Golaghat (Eastern Kaziranga) and Nagaon (Western Kaziranga).  All of these villages lie on the fringes of the Kaziranga National Park. The involvement of the KNP in the animal camps was extremely reassuring for people like Pramjat and other local community members.

Conducted over two months, the health camps for livestock covered 10 villages located in the fringe of Kaziranga National Park in collaboration with Kaziranga National Park (KNP), Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Department, Government of Assam, Aaranyak, Bhoomi and Corbett Foundation. Across nine locations in Golaghat and Nagaon districts, more than 300 farmers brought their cattle who were examined, de-wormed, given multi-vitamins and mineral supplements and checked for prevalent new diseases.

‘’The camps really helped us as the doctors visited our village by speed boat to set up the camp – we didn’t have to travel on the water blocked roads. They gave the cattle injections and medicines, after which my cows have recovered quickly from the high fever they got during the flood,’’ Pramjat explains.

For community members like Pramjat, camps like these are also an insight into the issue of nature conservation in their area. For instance, Pramjat explains, ‘’At the camp we learnt that a disease like goat-pox can be communicable to the wild animals in Kaziranga from the domestic goats who usually graze at the fringes of the national park. I also began to think of how the flood must have impacted the lives of the animals inside Kaziranga National Park.’’

For Dr. Parikshit Kakoti, Senior Programme Officer, Veterinary, WWF-India, who executed the camps, food scarcity and lack of drinking water is the key problem for cattle in flood situations, causing many parasitic diseases. However, this time, he also noticed several cases of goat pox, which in turn could be communicable to the wildlife in Kaziranga.

‘’To work on the rising cases of Goat Pox, WWF-India is working with State Veterinary Department to organize collaborative vaccination camps,’’ said Dr. Pranab Jyoti Bora, Senior Coordinator, Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape. He further reflects, ‘’Beyond helping us understand the prominent diseases amongst livestock, the camps have also brought the community closer to the cause of conservation –cattle owners now understand that diseases are communicable from the wildlife in Kaziranga to the livestock that grazes on the fringes and vice versa. Calamities like the flood we faced in Assam also brought a sense of empathy towards the animals in Kaziranga that had nowhere to go to save themselves. WWF-India is also working towards devising strategies for continued community support in our conservation work in and around the national park.’’

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