Dry spell essential for tourists to visit KNP

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Guwahati, Sep 11 (UNI) After floods wrought havoc at the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), a long dry spell would be crucial for re-opening this UNESCO World Heritage site for tourists as scheduled in November.

With the flood water receding, KNP authorities are now faced with shortage of fodder to ensure early return of migrated animals vulnerable to hunters and poachers.

More than 70 per cent of the park area was submerged, forcing the animals to take refuge in high lands within the KNP periphery as well as migrate to hills across NH 37 that runs through the park.

''The water has been receding but the animals have not started returning as there is a shortage of fodder here,'' KNP director Suren Buragohain told over telephone.

''The food in the high lands with the KNP is not enough for the large animal population of the park and hence, the animals that have migrated would return only after the water dries completely and new grass has grown,'' he added.

Giving an approximate estimate of animals that have migrated, Mr Buragohain informed that five rhinos, 500-600 hog deer, two herds of elephants (numbering 70-75) and 35 wild pigs are recorded to have left for other places.

Moreover, two rhino calves and one hog deer were drowned, while another seven hog deer, one pig and one swamp deer were run over by speeding vehicles on NH 37.

Three hog deer were rescued by the forest guards, the director said.

The forest guards have mostly returned to their outposts after they were forced to evict them following their houses being inundated.

On the possibility of any delay in opening the park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for tourists, Mr Buragohain said, ''A good dry spell is crucial for repairing the damages and making the park ready to receive tourists.'' The park is scheduled to re-open on November 1, after it remains closed from April for the monsoons.

''Several damaged bridges and culverts after last year's floods are yet to be repaired. We had to make do with alternative routes and causeways, but an assessment of this year's damage will be needed before a decision on reopening can be taken,'' he added.

UNI SG DPM DB1604

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