Dibrugarh/Golaghat (Assam), Aug 29: At least three feral horses have died in the deluge-hit Dibru-Saikhowa National Park while a hog deer was killed by a speeding vehicle when it was trying to escape floodwaters in Kaziranga National Park as vast tracts of the parks in Assam have been inundated, Forest officials said on Sunday.
Almost 70 per cent of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park has been flooded, forcing animals to flee to highlands, a Forest department official told PTI.
"Bodies of three feral horses have been recovered so far. They have been swept away. Two more have been rescued but their condition is critical," the official said.
The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, spread over Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts at the eastern tip of the state, is famous for its small population of about 70 feral horses which are the fourth and fifth generation of wild horses presumed to have escaped from army camps during the World War II. The overall flood situation in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) is also turning critical with around 50 per cent of the area already under water, its Director P Sivakumar told PTI.
Animals have started crossing the National Highway 37 that runs through the Park in search of dry land and one hog deer was killed in the act on Saturday evening, he said. To ensure safety of the animals that have come up to the national highway (NH), time cards are issued to passing vehicles from this morning, the director said. The time cards are handed to the drivers when their vehicles enter the NH stretch passing through the KNP and time is marked for how long it will take to cross the stretch at the permitted speed limit.
The cards are collected at the other end by the 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-kilometre per hour through the Park, with the limit as low as 20-km per hour in certain patches that animals use frequently. Approximately 37 kms of NH run through the Park. Besides the time card, devices to detect the speed of a vehicle are being used in seven locations of animal corridors along the NH, and information about vehicles crossing the speed limit is passed on to the transport department for taking penal action, Sivakumar said.
These devices function throughout the year in the Park while the time card is used only during floods when animals take shelter near the NH or cross it to move to dry land on the other side. The flood situation inside the Park could worsen by tonight or Monday morning as water levels are rising amid continued rain. We are keeping a close watch on the situation," he added.
More than 2.25 lakh people in 15 districts of the state had been affected by floods till Sunday, as per an Assam State Disaster Management Authority bulletin.