Kaziranga National Park, Assam

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

The Kaziranga National Park is in Assam, on the banks of the majestic Brahmaputra River. It is the oldest wildlife sanctuary in Assam. The Kaziranga National Park is made up of swamps and tall thickets of elephant grass. The grasslands are interspersed with open forest and interconnecting streams and lakes, making it the ideal habitat for the one horned Indian rhino. In fact, it has the world's largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as many other mammals including tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and hundreds of species of birds. In 1940, Kaziranga National Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary. Today, the Kaziranga National Park is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in India.

The one-horned rhinoceros is a huge beast, next in size to an elephant. One-horned rhinos are herbivorous animals and found in tall grasslands and riverine forests. The Kaziranga National Park is the only national park in India where they can be seen in their natural habitat. The largest of the three Asian rhinos, the one-horned rhino has a single distinctive tusk, as its name suggests. Its skin is grey brown and it has folds which make it look as though that the animal has armour plating. One-horned rhinos are called landscape architects because the take up to three days to digest a meal of grasses, leaves, aquatic plants and fruits. During this time, they move around quite a bit and so, the seeds of whatever they have eaten are transported to different places before being deposited as droppings

The one-horned rhino was hunted relentlessly for its horn which is in great demand for traditional medicines and hence had to be included into the list of endangered animals. Kaziranga National Park has more than 75 % of the global population of the horned rhinos.

According to legend, a girl named Ranga and a youth called Kazi fell in love. The lived in nearby villages but since they were not allowed to marry, they ran away together and were never seen again. The forest into which they disappeared came to be called Kaziranga.

More than 15 species of India's threatened mammals can be found here. It also boasts of the world's largest population of Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephants. When the park gets flooded during the monsoon, these animals migrate to the nearby Mikir Hills. Kaziranga's lakes and streams are rich in many forms of marine life which provide abundant food for the wild animals and birds that are found here. Thousands of migratory birds - over a hundred species of them- flock to the park seasonally. Some of them come from as far away as Siberia. In all, over 300 species of birds can be seen here while reptiles like the Indian python, water monitor, common cobra and king cobra abound. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Kaziranga National Park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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