Case study 3: Managing Biodiversity in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

Kaziranga National Park is one of the showcase national parks in India as well as a declared World Heritage Site. It celebrated its recent Centenary with a wonderful display of ethnic and cultural exhibits combined with an extensive and intensive series of research seminars to explore future management options for the Park. [ See for details] The seminars were attended by a number of international as well as Indian scientists. Andy Gillison from CBM presented a keynote address on “Managing biodiversity in Kaziranga National Park: a case for bioregional planning” (see below for abstract).

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Managing biodiversity in Kaziranga National Park: a case for bioregional planning

The biodiversity status of North East India is briefly reviewed together with Kaziranga NP that forms an integral part of the forested foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and grasslands and woodlands of the North and South Bank landscapes of the Brahmaputra river. Overlapping habitat ranges of many key plant and animal species within the region suggest biodiversity management within KNP should be carefully considered within the broader scope of a bioregional, conservation management plan for North East India. Data recently acquired from field surveys in the North Bank Landscape and Himalayan footlills are used to support this argument and to demonstrate the relative global conservation value of the region.

Case studies were presented to briefly illustrate how critical baseline data and information can be acquired and maintained by both regional forestry and park management using relatively low-cost, state-of-the-art technology. Such data can be vital for adaptive management in the face of unforeseen environmental change or for decision support in the selection and integration of park extensions.

Balancing the plant-animal conservation image in Kaziranga

The Kaziranga success story is without parallel on the Indian subcontinent. It is the result of tireless efforts by government and conservation agencies combined with on-ground commitment by park personnel. The image presented to the world is one of continuing success in managing large mammals especially the flagship species of rhino, elephant and tiger. While success is seen as the embodiment of the right kind of faunal management, an untold story surrounds the critical management of animal habitat that is reflected in its vegetation.
Unlike most other areas of the Brahmaputra valley, the vegetation of KNP represents an unusually intact mosaic of successional and mature vegetation types that form the semi-evergreen forest and grassland mosaics of the south bank of the Brahmaputra river.
While many of the forest species areendemic to the Indo-Burma region, the vegetation typifies many aspects of the palaeotropic dry forests that extend in a dry seasonal belt around the globe.

These high-conservation-value dry forests and related grasslands are under extreme threat in many countries and have been targeted by many international conservation agencies as an urgent conservation priority. Apart from their conservation value, many species are highly attractive (e.g. deciduous flowering trees and shrubs and numerous species of orchids and gingers). Existing tourist routes within the park intercept the majority of vegetation types and animal habitat that present differing seasonal extremes of appearance.
Release of the WWF-India publication Biodiversity Assessment in the North Bank Landscape, North East India.
This publication was formally released at the Centenary Celebration and received with much acclaim. It contains the results of a previous survey conducted by WWF-India with assistance from CBM. Copies can be obtained from WWF-India, N.Delhi.