KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK

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Birds   |   By Air    |    By Rail   |    By road

The monsoon and the Brahmaputra leave Kaziranga with a comparatively short season - January to May. Approachable from either Guwahati of Jorhat, it is sandwiched by the highway to the south and the river to its north. The reserve sprawls over 165 sq. miles (430 sq. km ) of grassland and impenetrable vegetative luxuriance comprising close-tangled and thorny rattan cane, elephant grass and tall trees of the evergreen forests. Until 1908 , Kaziranga was a sportsman's and Poacher's paradise, but the rapidly declining population of rhino forced the authorities, in 1926 , to constitute it a reserve forest, closed to shooting.

Some estimates put the then rhino population at about a dozen and the subsequent revival of this massive an powerful animal, reminiscent of prehistoric ages, has been one of the more notable feats of fauna conservation. In 1940 , Kaziranga was officially declared a wildlife sanctuary. In almost all wildlife reserves in India , the visitor needs to give himself a few days to have a reasonable chance of seeing wildlife at close quarters . Kaziranga , however, is the exception where one can hope to see most of the mammals for which it is known in a single day. The only natural enemy of the rhino is the tiger of which there is a sizable population in the park . The tall grass and the patches of forest provide excellent cover for the big cats which are therefore rarely seen. Sometimes a tiger will attack and kill a rhino calf despite the mother's aggressive vigilance, but the rhino suffers more at the hand of man. Its horn, believed to be an aphrodisiac by the ancient Indians and highly sought after by Chinese medicine men, is a lucrative target for poachers. The rhino, being a creature of set habits, follows well-worn trails and even defecates at the same spot each day. Taking advantage of its regular habits, a pit large enough to accommodate its body is dug by the poachers in its usual path and then covered with leaves and grass. The unwary animal falls into the pit where it is killed and its horn hacked off with a ado. Other parts of the body also command sale value. As both sexes carry the horn, the threat is doubly compounded. The presence of buffalo and rhino make walking in the sanctuary a difficult proposition. A third species ensure that visitors enter only riding elephants or in vehicles. Herds of up to 200 wild elephants can be seen migrating from the Mikir hills to the bheels and, like the buffalo, it is again the solitary bull elephant which is prone to create trouble. A riding elephant, on occasion, can wander into a herd of wild elephants; on the other hand , a wild elephant will even caress a trained one with its trunk, oblivious of the dreaded human cargo on its back. As one starts from Mihimukh where nearly 20 elephants are stabled (owing to patrol duties and pregnancies, only four or five are usually available to tourists and it is advisable to reserve a day in advance) . Small herds of barasingha and the odd wild boar are usually among the first animals seen.

Birds

Grasslands are often excellent raptor country, and Kaziranga is no exception - the crested serpent eagle is common, Pallas's fishing eagle and the gray-headed fishing eagle are frequently seen.

The park is open from November to April. There is a tourist information centre (Tel :423) at Kaziranga. They have a minibus and also organize those elephant rides into the long grass. Guides are free. Avoid organized tours to Kaziranga from Guwahati since they're too short (two days) and you'll spend most of that time on the bus (some nine hours in all) and have only one game drive. It's best to have at least three nights and four days in Kaziranga if you want to see anything. There is a variety of accommodation around the park, including forest inspection bungalows at Beguri (no bedding of mosquito nets), Arimarh (no electricity) and kohora. Or there is a soil Conservation Inspection Bungalow, a PWD Inspection Bungalow and two tourist bungalows . At the top of the price scale there is the Aranya Lodge . It's a good place to stay and is well run. The lodge provides a jeep and driver and the forest department provides a guide. Another good place is the wild Grass Resort (Tel: 037762-81437).

By Air

Calcutta to Jorhat flights land 84 km from the park.

By Rail

Furketing is the most convenient railway station, 72 km away; from here buses and jeeps run to Kaziranga.

By road

Guwahati is 233 km away on Highway 37 . There are state transport buses from Guwahati.

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