GUWAHATI, April 29 - Even as the forest authorities and the State government refuse to recognize the critical importance of forested hills of Karbi Anglong for long-term well-being of Kaziranga National Park, wildlife migration from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong has shown an increasing trend.
This, conservationists assert, makes for a very strong case of putting in place a safety mechanism for the animals. The absence of safeguards has over the years resulted in erosion of animal corridors and forestland along and beyond Kaziranga�s southern boundary due to growing mining and quarrying activities besides expansion of human settlements and tourist facilities.
A recent documentation by WWF-India has shown that it is not just during flood-time that animals cross over to the Karbi Anglong highlands but the trend of migration is visible throughout the year.
�Floods naturally induce migration on a larger scale as a major part of Kaziranga stays inundated. But there is clear evidence that migration is not restricted to flood-time alone. With populations of almost all animals � especially herbivores � in Kaziranga increasing, more wildlife is spreading out in search of space and food to the Karbi Anglong side, as it constitutes a single ecological belt with Kaziranga,� Dr PJ Bora of WWF India told The Assam Tribune.
Herbivores apart, tigers and black panthers have also been photographed crossing over to the Karbi Anglong side by a camera trap exercise undertaken by WWF-India. In total, over 30 species of animals have been found migrating from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong.
Kaziranga is connected with the Karbi Anglong landscape through four corridors � Panbari, Haldhibari, Amguri and Kanchanjhuri � all of which are facing serious anthropogenic pressures.
�We have found the maximum wildlife movement through the Kanchanjuri corridor. Rhinos, elephants, deer, tigers, lesser cats, among others, use these corridors,� Dr Bora said, adding that the habitat use pattern on the Karbi Anglong side also needed proper assessment.
Worryingly, quarrying activities have severely eroded the wildlife corridors and conservationists fear that the situation could trigger a serious man-animal conflict in the area. Recently, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) urged the State government to stop the industrial activities in and around the Karbi Anglong forestland in view of the grave danger it posed to wildlife and their habitat. Many water channels from Karbi Anglong that replenish Kaziranga�s wetlands are getting polluted by the ongoing industrial activities.
Another imperative is to bring at least a portion of the forests under a legal protection mechanism or to ensure effective community management of the forests. As the forest stretches used by Kaziranga�s wildlife in Karbi Anglong are mostly community forests and reserve forests (that lack the status of a protected area), the developments stand to adversely affect wildlife unless some interventions are made.
Abhijit Rabha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, while acknowledging the issues, said that the prevailing security mechanism even in the protected forests of Karbi Anglong was far weaker than that of Kaziranga and �to complicate matters further, much of the forestland that are increasingly being used by wildlife lacks protected area status, making wildlife more vulnerable to the threat of poaching.�