Floodwaters have submerged 70 percent of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and the animals are taking shelter near the national highway that runs through the Park or are crossing it in search of dry land, prompting the park authorities to issue an advisory to heavy vehicles to avoid the stretch.
The carcass of a swamp deer, which is believed to have come out of the Park looking for dry land, was recovered near the boundary wall on Monday morning, a Forest department official said.
At least three hog deer have been killed by speeding vehicles in the Park in the current wave of floods, KNP authorities said. The forest official said a local youth spotted the dead animal and the preliminary suspicion of attempted hunting was confirmed during post-mortem.
“The female swamp deer was killed by using sharp spears while coming out of Park during the night,” the official said adding a case has been registered and investigation initiated.
Animals have started coming near the NH 37 that passes through the Park in search of dry land with many crossing the road to reach higher land necessitating speed control of vehicles.
The Park authorities said 70 percent of the Park’s total approximately 430 sq km area is currently reeling due to the flood. Besides water from the swollen Brahmaputra and other rivers and rivulets flowing through the park, rainwater from the bordering Karbi Ang; on hills flood the area annually.
On Sunday evening KNP through its official Twitter handle advised heavy trucks to use the North Bank road to avoid traffic in the Kaziranga stretch of the national highway. It has already started issuing time cards to regulate traffic in the animal corridor.
The authorities said time cards are handed over to the drivers when their vehicles enter the national highways stretch passing through KNP and time is marked for how long it will take to cross the patch at the permitted speed limit. The cards are collected at the other end by forest and district administration officials to ensure compliance with the speed limit and a penalty is imposed for any violation.
The general speed limit is 40 km per hour through the Park, with approximately 37 km of NH running through it. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted on Monday appealing to drivers of trucks and other vehicles to avoid Kaziranga.
“We all take pride in Kaziranga National Park. In wake of floods causing displacement of Kaziranga animals & putting them at risk, may I appeal to truck / other vehicles to avoid NH 715 for commuting between lower & upper Assam & use NH 15 thru North Bank instead?” he tweeted.
Sarma also asked the police of the districts in and around Kaziranga as well as in the northern bank to redirect traffic accordingly.
Besides NH 37 (NH 715 now) connecting lower and upper Assam which passes through Kaziranga, NH 15 which runs along the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river also serves as a road link between the two parts of the state.
Out of 223 forest camps inside the Park, 125 have been inundated so far and one has been vacated, as per the Park authorities.