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Category — East

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.

May 21, 2015   1 Comment

Travel Thursday: The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Last month as we travelled through Meghalaya on a Journeys with Meaning trip, what struck me the most about the State was the people. They were an amazing people with an equally amazing culture.

Let me explain this with an example. The living root bridges of Meghalaya are famous, mostly in India but slowly it’s becoming famous internationally too. And they should be, for the bridges are unique and astounding.

Made from the aerial roots of trees, these bridges are still living, the roots are alive and growing. Some bridges are young, maybe 50 years old but some are over a 150 years old, some have small narrow paths and some bridges are triple decker.

The bridges are usually made from trees of the rubber tree family, but other trees with aerial roots have also been used.

It all starts off with heads of a village choosing the spot for a bridge. On the spot trees are then planted on both sides of the river or stream. The trees are nurtured and cared for over the years until they grow big and strong and start to give out aerial roots.

The young roots are then guided into bamboo poles or hollowed out arecanut trees. These roots then grow long and straight inside the poles until they become big and strong and split the pole.

The time is now ripe start making the bridge. The strengthen straightened roots are connected across the river and the process of weaving begins as young roots are tied and wove into the initial roots to weave a bridge.

Slowly over the years the roots grow into each other, getting strong and taking strength from each other until they are ready to take the strength of cobble stones. Rocks are then placed into the weave of roots and over time the roots curl up around it and become one with it.

Finally the bridge becomes a smooth cob stoned pathway with a beautiful weave of root railings along it. The whole process from coming to make a bridge to actually crossing it, takes over 100 years.

That means that the people who first thought of the bridge and started working on it, will never get to actually use it. They didn’t build the bridge for themselves but foresaw the use of it two generations later and started to work on providing the need of a future society.

It’s a selfless society that made me sit back and wonder. We live in an instant gratification world but these guys seemed to be taking delayed gratification to an all new level.

They seem a happy people without ego, who believe in the strength of many rather than the power of one. Each generation works with the previous and for the next. Each bridge changes in design and character with each generation that works on it. The bridges are not the dream of one man but a coming together of the dreams and ideas of many.

And it goes on as the current generation continues to weave the roots, strengthen the bridges, make new tiers and plan new bridges.

If you’d like to know more about Meghalaya and the bridges, or would like to go on a trip there, please contact Journeys with Meaning on Facebook or email them at journeyswithmeaning at gmail dot com. I highly recommend these guys.
 

Photo Credit: Chenthil Mohan

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

May 7, 2015   No Comments

My Pick of the Week: Kolkata :)

I’ve been to Calcutta a few years ago and I loved the city even though mustard oil doesn’t suit my tummy 😀 Che’s first ever wedding video collage reminded me so much of the place. This one’s for you Calcutta :)

November 25, 2011   1 Comment