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Kaziranga National Park : A home
for the Single-horned Rhinos

- by Uttara Gangopadhyay

          An elephant ride took us into the depths of the Kaziranga National Park. Only 217 km from Guwahati, this forest in Assam is famous for the one–horned rhinoceros. It was an early March morning and we had pulled on our woollens.

The elephants take dark paths, each through hick clusters of trees and underlying bushes. One has to be very careful lest one gets hurt. The forest is so thick that our knees often got caught in the sweeping branches.

          Although the forest is home to rhinos, elephants, several kinds of deer, wild buffalo, tiger, a large variety of birds etc., only a small portion of the 430 sq km park can be covered during the two-hour ride and therefore one should be really lucky to have a glimpse of the wildlife.

          We crossed smalll streams, most of which originate from the Brahmaputra river flowing along the northern fringe of the park. As we scanned our surroundings, a hog deer scuttled into the bush, a pair of sambars stood quietly by the wayside.

We found the mahout constantly surveying the forest

floor. "I am looking for rhino scat," he explained, "because they always return to the same place for defecating. If we find a fresh mound , we know the animal is nearby."

          Ploughing through the grass almost as tall as the elephant, we found a family of seven-eight rhinos basking in the sun. Some looked like armoured cars - their skin folds thick, the stocky horn at the tip of their nose raised like a bayonet. Roughly there are 2000 rhinos in Kaziranga. Once threatened to extinction, the forest department staff have nursed them back to safety, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

           The rhinos paid little heed to the cameras clicking at them. Our two-hour ride was almost coming to an end and so the mahout turned the elephant and headed for Mihimukh.

INFORMATION: Located off the National Highway 37, Kaziranga National Park can be approached by road from Guwahati ( 217 km) and Jorhat (90 km). The time taken is 5 hrs and 2 hrs, respectively. The tourist lodge complex ( with AC and non-AC rooms, and dormitories) at Kohra run by Assam Tourism is a nice place to stay. The forest office located next door has to be contacted for elephant rides and permits to enter the forest. There are also forest lodges inside the park. The privately-run Wild Grass Resort, on the fringe of the Park, is an upmarket place.

          For Assam Tourism lodges, contact : Deputy Director, Assam Tourism, Kaziranga NP, Golaghat – 785109, Assam. Telephone – (037765) 5423, 5429.

Best Season: November to April
Clothing: Woollen in winter and light cotton in summer.

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