Location : Banks of the river Brahmaputra, Assam
Highlights : UNESCO World Heritage Site
Kaziranga National Park is situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra, in the northeast state of Assam. Covering a total area of about 430 sq km, it is one of the most famous tourist attractions of the state. The history of the park can be traced back to the era when Mary Victoria Leiter Curzon, the wife of Viceroy of India Lord Curzon, visited the place, in the year 1904. The lady wanted to see the famous one-horned rhinoceros of Assam, but after failing to do so, she became very disappointed and asked her husband to take immediate measures to protect this unique and dwindling species.
On June 1st 1905, Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was established, with the aim of protecting the exquisite species of one-horned rhinoceros. Over the next few years, the park became known as a Reserve Forest and finally in 1916, it was converted into the Kaziranga Game Sanctuary. In 1950, the place was renamed as the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, in order to get rid of hunting connotations that endangered a lot of species within the park. In 1968, it gained the status of a National Park. Currently, the place is regarded as a World Heritage Site, as declared by UNESCO on 11th February 1974.
Kaziranga National Park serves as home to a large number of wild animals and birds. In fact, the largest population of the Great Indian One Horned Rhinocerous, Wild Asiatic Water Buffalo and the Eastern Swamp Deer can be found residing within this park only. Apart from this, the national park also breeds 35 species of mammals, out of which 15 are in the endangered species category, as mentioned in the IUCN Red List. These include the Indian Tiger, Leopard, Bengal Fox, Golden Jackal, Indian Grey Mongoose and the Hog Badger.
Kaziranga National Park is an important bird area, as identified by the Birdlife International Society. A large number of migratory birds, game birds as well as predators can be found within the vicinity of the park. Some of the major species of birds residing in the area are the Greater Adjutant, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Openbill Stork, Eastern Imperial, Greater Spotted, Great Indian Hornbill and the Black Breasted Parrotbill. Besides this, 9 species of primates, 42 species of fish and several varieties of snakes are found in the park.
The vegetation inside the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary can be widely categorized under four headings - alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests and tropical semi evergreen forests. The major trees and shrubs that grow in this area include the Aphanamixis polystachya, Ficus rumphii, Dillenia indica, Albizia procera, Sterculia urens and Bridelia retusa. Many aquatic floras can also be found thriving in the lakes and ponds of the wildlife park and also along the river shores.
The major attractions for the tourists within the Kaziranga National Park are the safaris (jeep or elephant safaris), organized for the purpose of watching the wildlife, apart from hiking and observation towers. An interpretation centre has also been set up at the Bagori range of Kaziranga, in order to help the visitors know more about the park. For the purpose of transportation, ASTC (Assam State Transport Corporation) and other private bus services are available, which stop at the main gate of the sanctuary, on NH 37 at Kohora.