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Thursday Travel: Kaziranga National Park and The Rhino

I had been to Kaziranga National Park for the first time about 6 years ago but back then I just past through the park and except for rhino’s didn’t see much at all.

Then in March I landed up there again as a part of the Journeys with Meaning trip. This time though I wasn’t just passing through and I got to know the forest so much better.

There is so much I learned and experienced in a little over one day there. The night before the safari, Dr. Firoz Ahmed, a Wildlife Biologist at Aranyak made time to come and tell us about Kaziranga and answer our questions.

The Rhino

Dr. Firoz has spent many years in Kaziranga studying the Rhino and trying to save it. And they’ve achieved it! In spite of poaching, since the park was formed in 1904 rhino numbers have been steadily going up. There are over 2000 rhinos in Kaziranga today.

Kaziranga National Park is a combination of grassland, marshland, and dense tropical forests criss-crossed by 4 rivers. It supports not just the rhino but also a large number of other animal, bird and fish species that come together to form an excellent eco-system. Here an adult Rhino does not have any predators and lives 8-10 years. It’s horn and very sharp teeth keep it safe from most attacks. Even Tigers would think twice.

Poaching

However in spite of the skin of a rhino looking tough and like armour, it is delicate and very sensitive. One well placed shot from poachers can bring this beautiful beast to its knees and after that it’s just one or two hacks of an axe to get the horn. The entire operation is so quick that it’s almost impossible to catch the poachers.

Most poachers work hand in hand with locals. A local guide is needed for a successful slaughter. Aranyak works in this space, trying to educate the locals and protect the rhino.

The Horn

It is a myth that the rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine as a aphrodisiac. The truth is it is used in fever medicine. The horn can be harvested with out killing the rhino if it is not dug out but the rates for the horn (80 lakhs or so for 250gms) makes poachers want to take all of it, every single bit.

Rhino horns are used not just for medicine, but also as ornaments and status symbols. The extremists use them as a way to fund their activities, buying guns, ammunition and such.

Kaziranga has more rhino poaching than tiger poaching and tiger numbers here are high (over a 100). The tigers are pretty safe here as there is very little human-tiger conflict due to the large supply of water and prey in this extremely fertile land.

Continued Next week…

 
P.S. – Day Seventeen of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

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