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Kaziranga, Assam - India
Wetlands, grasslands, forests and riverine habitats fed by the Brahmaputra River... Kaziranga has them all. "No one can enter the place. It is all swamps and leeches and even elephants cannot go there," was the response of a British forest officer in 1930 to the famous naturalist E P Gee, author of Wildlife of India, who had requested permission to visit Kaziranga.

Today, Kaziranga is a World Heritage Site and is probably one of the richest, most picturesque wildlife habitats of southern Asia. Home to the world's largest Asiatic one-horned rhinoceros (population above 1,000), Kaziranga harbours at least 15 mammals listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, including elephants, wild buffalo and tigers. The Brahmaputra River (that originates in China and ultimately flows into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh) is visible from the northern boundary of the park and stretches like an open sea, large and powerful.

Kaziranga's ecosystems, comprising wetlands, alluvial grasslands, and wet tropical evergreen forests, literally burst with life. The phenomenon of annual flooding, which takes place when the Brahmaputra breaks its banks during each monsoon season, has been taking a vicious toll of wildlife in recent years of upstream deforestation... but flooding per se is not bad (75 per cent of the land is normally flooded) as it brings in life-giving alluvial silt, a key reason why Kaziranga is such a bio-rich habitat .

History:
Kaziranga was originally established as a reserve forest in 1908. It became a game sanctuary in 1916 and a favourite haunt for poachers and hunters alike. In response to outcries that the rhino was headed for extinction, hunting was banned and Kaziranga was declared a forest reserve (230 sq km) and then a wildlife sanctuary in 1926.

It opened to visitors in 1938 thanks to the initiative of A J W Milroy, Chief Conservator, who put an end to much of the poaching. In the 1950s large tracts of tropical forest were cleared for the tea industry and with it came more people. Much of the wild habitat of Assam was consequently lost to human settlement and their attendant ills (poaching is still a major problem).

In 1954, the rhino was given legal protection through the Assam (Rhinoceros) Bill that laid down heavy penalties for killing the pachyderms. Kaziranga was declared a National Park in 1974 and the original core area of 428 sq km was declared a World Heritage Site in December 1985. It is here that the one-horned rhino is making its main stand, though populations are thinly represented in other states including Jaldapara in West Bengal and the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh (where they were reintroduced).
Kaziranga National Park:
Kaziranga National Park is a national park in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam, India. A World Heritage Site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world's Great One-horned Rhinoceroses.

Kaziranga boasts the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. Kaziranga is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International for conservation of avifaunal species. Compared to other protected areas in India, Kaziranga has achieved notable success in wildlife conservation. Located on the edge of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot, the park combines high species diversity and visibility.

Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, crisscrossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water. Kaziranga has been the theme of several books, songs, and documentaries. The park celebrated its centennial in 2005 after its establishment in 1905 as a reserve forest.
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