National Parks and Sanctuaries : Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park in the North Eastern state of Assam, is the last stronghold of the Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros. It forms the floodplain of the Brahmaputra River and consists of extensive grasslands interspersed with water bodies known as bheels.

The Hog Deer is the most numerous deer species found at Kaziranga, which also holds Swamp Deer, Sambar and Muntjac. The Park supports perhaps the highest density of tigers anywhere in the world. Other important species include Wild Buffalo, Asiatic elephants, Hoolock Gibbons, Capped Langur and the Smooth Indian Otter.

Gangetic Dolphin are mainly seen in the Brahmaputra river, which forms the Northern boundary of the Park. The rich mix of different vegetation types makes Kaziranga amongst the top birding parks of the sub-continent, and the numerous water bodies attract a large number of water fowl.

Best time to visit is between November and April.


Mr. Deb Roy was Director of Project Tiger, Field Director of Manas Tiger Reserve and Director General Forests. He was a distinguished and committed champion of Indian wildlife. The following is from a note written by him in 1995.

"……..where the Indian One horned Rhino has been brought back to somewhat stable if not strong footing during the last 85 years or so. During the beginning of the current century, the area had been left with just about a dozen rhinos faced with insistent persecution for its horn and the squeezing of its natural habitat from expanding agriculture. Tea had already taken root as a boom industry in the vicinity and occupied the higher grounds along the base of the Mikir hills, where the Rhinos and all other wild animals took refuge during the annual floods. The planters and the bigwigs in government took to the pastime of shooting the Rhino for breakfast, a tiger for lunch and a Croc. for afternoon tea!! Life seemed to be even more regal for those brave enough to cross the 7 seas than it was for the Moguls. But wildlife was certainly being decimated particularly the Rhino seemed to be heading for certain doom.

From an estimated one dozen Rhino in 1908, the numbers climbed to 100 dozen (1200). This may be an achievement quite unparalleled in the history of any species of Rhino in the contemporary world. To achieve this much hard toil, spilling of blood (literally) had to be undertaken by many unsung heroes away from public sight. A fairly large area (432 has been locked up from human use in a region, which experiences some of the highest pressure for agricultural land. "

The local tribe called the Miris use the river as their lifeline. They have for generations lived in harmony with the annual flooding and their lifestyle like houses on stilts, boats etc. all testify to their adaptation to this.

Location:Kaziranga National Park in the North-eastern state of Assam lies on the alluvial flood-plain of the true left bank of the river Brahmaputra, which forms the northern boundary of the Park. The southern boundary runs more or less parallel to the Mora Diphlu river and the National Highway No. 37.

Latitude: 26° 35' to 26° 45' N
Longitude: 93° 05' to 93° 40' E
Area: 696

Elevation: 40 - 500m above msl.
Climate: SW Monsoon - mid May to September. Average of 100 to 160 rainy days.
Rainfall: 2500 mm
Temperature: Minimum 11° C (51.8ºF); Maximum 30°C (86ºF)

Kaziranga is situated on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River and this habitat is a direct consequence of this annual flooding. More than half the Park consists of a varied patchwork of grassland types. The tall grasses like Barate Kher (Saccharam eliphantinus), (Saccharam spontanium), Ulu Kher (Imperata cylindrica), Erianthus fillifolius, Erianthus ravaneao, Nal (Arundo donax), Khagori (Phonmites karka) grow on slightly higher ground.
These tall grasses which average about 4-6m are too tall and coarse to be of food value for most animals, but provide excellent cover. The short grasses found along the water bodies are Cynodon dactylon, Chrysopogon aciculatus, Cenchrus ciliaris and it is these grasses that support the bulk of the ungulate population.

The primary management concern of the Park authorities is to maintain the grassland for the benefit of the Rhinos. While the annual flood is the main determinant in the maintenance of the grassland, fire is also a useful tool and the systematic burning of the grassland suppresses colonisation trees and also stimulates fresh growth of grasses. The fresh shoots appear within a matter of days after the burn and are heavily grazed by the herbivores. This grazing pressure ensures the perpetuation of the valuable short grass species, which could otherwise be shaded out by the tall coarse species.

About a quarter of the Park consists of riparian evergreen forest with rattan cane brakes and other typical features.

The numerous lakes and waterbodies (known locally as bheels) occupy the rest of the habitat and are a very important feature. Most of these are remnants of old ox-bow lakes. Water hyacincth (Eichchornia crassipes) is an aggressive exotic species that has spread throughout the park. Floating grasses like Andropogon sp.Helonchi (Enhydra fluctuans), Borpunni (Pistia straflotes), Harunpuni (Lemma pancicostals), water lilies like (Nymphia) and Lotus (Nelumba) make up most of the indigenous aquatic vegetation.

The annual flood has a profound and varied effect on the entire ecosystem of Kaziranga. The flood waters deposit vast quantities of silt and fine sand that enrich the topsoil and flush out the bheels of the accumulated water hyacinth and also provide the conditions for the spawning of the fish.

The Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is the species that Kaziranga was established to protect and this species continues to be the focus of management and anti-poaching activities at Kaziranga. As a result, it harbours the single largest concentration of this species and its numbers today stand around 1500.
A fluctuating Elephant (Elephas maximus) population of around 1500 - 2000 use the area of the Park and the Wild Buffalo (Bubalus bubalus) is a common animal in the Park, although cross breeding with domestic stock has lead to considerable hybridisation. Kaziranga is also home to a large cross section of other mammals like Swamp deer or Barasingha (Cervus duvauceli), Hog Deer (Axis porcinus), Sambar Deer (Cervus unicolor), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Sloth Bear( Melursus ursinus), hog badger(Arctonyx collaris) and the sub-continent's only ape, the Hoolock gibbon (Hylobates hoolock). Other primates found here are Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mullata), Capped Langur (Presbytis pileatus) and Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang). The high prey density, supports arguably the highest Tiger (Panthera tigris) density of any region with an estimated 80-100 tigers inhabiting the 696 sq. kms. of the park although the dense vegetation adds greatly to their elusiveness. Leopards (Panthera pardus) also prosper although there is no estimate of their population. Besides these a host of aquatic fauna including the Smooth Indian Otter (Lutra perspicillata) and Gangetic Dolphins (Platanista gangetica) are also found here.

By any measure Kaziranga must be counted amongst the top birding parks of the sub-continent. It's location near the Eastern Himalayas, the diversity of habitat, grassland, wetland, riparian, evergreen and its situation along the important migration routes are all factors in the richness and fascinating mix of avifauna that may be seen here. The bheels form the ideal wintering ground for large concentrations of ducks and waders and the Eastern Range of the Park shelters one of the few remaining nesting colonies of the Grey or Spot-billed Pelican. The Black Necked Stork also nests here as does the now rare Greater Adjutant Stork.

Of the winter visitors, the Bar-headed Geese, are perhaps the most spectacular. Pin tail, Gargeny, Widgeon and the Common Teal gather in good numbers. The Lesser Whistling Teal or Tree Duck is resident and the Pied, Common and Stork-billed Kingfisher are commonly seen. Pallas's Fishing Eagle and the Grey-headed Fishing Eagle are frequently seen and nest in the Park.

The most common parakeet is the Rose or Red-breasted parakeet and the park is filled with their raucous calls. Besides the Green Barbet and the Coppersmith, the Blue Throated Barbet is common with its distinctive call. Bengal Florican is strictly a bird of the short grasslands and Kaziranga remains one of its last major strong holds.

In the forested areas, particularly in the Western Range, Great Pied Hornbills and Wreathed Hornbills are often seen.

Reptiles and Amphibians
A wide variety of snakes include the Rock Python, King Cobra, and Banded Krait, with the Chequered Keelback being the common 'water snake' seen in and around Kaziranga. Both the Common Monitor and the Water Monitor are present at Kaziranga. The bheels and streams are the home of a variety of turtles and terrapins and these can be see basking on fallen logs and branches.

Kaziranga National Park is divided into three main Ranges.

The Eastern or Agarotoli Range consists of a large water body and woodlands and is particularly good for bird watching. Access to this area is only by Jeep, and this is also where the nesting colony of Spotted Billed Pelicans is. Elephants are also seen here quite often but the rhino numbers are low.

The Central or Kaziranga Range is where the Park authorities arrange a one-hour elephant ride in the mornings. This ride is quite rewarding since the elephant take you close to some of the Rhinos that are resident in the area, and also to Swamp Deer if the herds are in the vicinity. The elephant rides have to be booked in advance at Kohora, and the lodges where visitors stay, normally help with this. Drives through this Range take the visitor through a variety of habitats, and rhino, buffalo, elephants are very regularly sighted. The occasional Tiger sighting is always possible and also otters, monitor lizard and a variety of birds.

The Western or Bagori Range has the largest concentration of Rhinos in the park and to be able to count 8 to 15 from the Donga tower interspersed with Swamp Deer and Buffalo is not uncommon. Here too the mode of wildlife viewing is from a vehicle.

The entry to the Park is allowed in the mornings and the afternoon and the drives are for about two hours. The route to be taken is prescribed by the Park administration, but the Park authorities do occasionally allow special interest groups or persons to go off the tourism route. This is really not necessary, since an average visitor is likely to see just about everything from along the designated routes

The Hoolock Gibbon and Capped Langur can be encountered in the Panbari forest, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Range Officer at Kohora. Prior permission from the Range officer is needed to visit this area, and this is readily provided. Panbari is also a very good birding location though the thick vegetation makes spotting a challenge.

Best time to visit:
The Park is open from November to April/May and remains closed during the monsoon season. The best time to visit is between November and March.

How to get there:

Air and Rail : Both Jorhat (94 kilometres) and Guwahati (220 kilometres) are connected by air and rail, Guwahati is naturally better connected.
Road: A five hour journey from Guwahati, this is a pleasnt drive through the Assam countryside. The nearest town is Bokaghat, 22 kilometre from the park


Forest rest houses and bungalows are available in the park area. Kaziranga Forest Lodge is also available with air conditioned rooms, bar restaurant and other facilities. Perhaps the best run private hotel is Wild Grass Resorts which is ideally located from where it is easy to visit all three ranges at Kaziranga. The lodge provides good vehicle with guides and is excellantly staffed.

Whom to contact:

Kaziranga National Park
PO Bokaghat
District Jorhat

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