Indian floods damage national park, threaten rare one-horned rhinos

Floods in northeast India that killed at least 40 people and displaced nearly 1.5 million have inundated a national park that is home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros.

The Brahmaputra river, which flows from China down to India and then through Bangladesh, busted its banks after torrential monsoon rains swamped more than 2,500 villages in India’s Assam state over the past two weeks.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed anguish over the human suffering, with thousands of people seeking shelter in more than 300 relief camps.

Authorities have declared a “maximum health alert” to stop the spread of diseases.

Efforts are also underway to help the rhinos and other wildlife put in danger when flood waters swamped the Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site.

More than 90 per cent of the Kaziranga National Park is under water,” Assam Forest Minister Pramila Brahma said.

Danger

The 430 sq km park is home to the world’s largest number of the one-horned rhinoceros, with an estimated 2,500 out of a total population of some 3,000.

Two rhino calves have drowned and up to 15 deer perished in the high floods. Animals are seeking refuge on high ground, including hills outside the park,” Brahma said.

 

When the animals move to smaller areas of higher ground to escape the floods they became more vulnerable to poachers.

They also face increasing danger of being hit by vehicles if they take refuge on roads that often run along embankments.

Special barricades have been put along the highway and forest guards are asking drivers to drive under 40 km an hour. The water level in the Brahmaputra is expected to keep rising until the end of the week before stabilising, provided there is no more heavy rain,’’ the Central Water Commission said.

 

Mazino Dickson