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Wildlife migration from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong rising


GUWAHATI, May 8 - With migration of wildlife from Kaziranga National Park to the Karbi Anglong forests beyond its southern boundary showing an increasing trend, conservationists have stressed the need for a long-term safety mechanism for the animals.

While it is normal for animals to cross over to the Karbi Anglong highlands during the annual floods in Kaziranga, evidence is emerging that the trend of migration is not restricted to flood-time alone. Since 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, i.e., wildlife sanctuary and national park), the situation might not be conducive to the wildlife�s long-term well-being unless some interventions are made.

An ongoing camera trap monitoring by the WWF-India has so far recorded over 30 species of animals, including tiger and black panther, that have migrated from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong. Kaziranga is connected with the rest of the landscape through four corridors � Panbari, Haldibari, Amguri and Kanchanjuri � all of which are facing serious anthropogenic pressures.

�Compared to earlier times, we have of late noticed increased wildlife movement from Kaziranga to Karbi Anglong. While this migration is not unusual given the contiguity of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape and Kaziranga�s proliferating wildlife, the development does raise security concerns. The prevailing security mechanism in Karbi Anglong forests is far weaker than that of Kaziranga,� Abhijit Rabha, Chief Conservator of Forests, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, said.

To complicate matters further, Rabha added, much of the forestland that are increasingly being used by wildlife lacks protected area (PA) status, making the wildlife more vulnerable to the threat of poaching. �Even though we have the North and East Karbi Anglong wildlife sanctuaries, not all wild animals are frequenting those. We have observed wildlife on reserve forests and community forestland as well,� he said.

PJ Bora of WWF-India, who has been engaged with its Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape Programme, said that conventional security measures apart, the developments called for greater involvement of the local communities in conservation.

�Our camera trap exercise has shown animals in large numbers and in large diversity crossing over to Karbi Anglong. We have so far recorded over 30 species including tiger, black panther and golden cat. Of the eight tigers recorded, four have been confirmed to be Kaziranga�s,� he said.

Bora added that WWF had been engaging with the local communities for transforming them into active stakeholders in conservation. Most of the wildlife that are migrating to Karbi Anglong are passing through community forests without disturbing the people. All the camera traps we had set up for monitoring wildlife are on community forests. If the government and NGOs come forward to give the fringe forest people some support in alternative livelihood and skill development, the cause of conservation will be benefitted,� Bora said.

Bhaskar Choudhury of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) said that while long-ranging animals like elephant and tiger naturally required extended space, some other species could be increasingly frequenting the Karbi Anglong forests due to space and food constraint in Kaziranga.

�Among other things, the habitat use pattern in Karbi Anglong needs to be assessed, as we do not have much knowledge about it. Along with wildlife habitat, some legal sanctity should be given to the corridors that are integral to wildlife migration. Growing construction and industrial activities have severely eroded the corridors. Community conservation initiatives, too, are urgently needed to save corridors and the wildlife habitat in Karbi Anglong,� he said.

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