Orang National Park
The Orang National Park also known as Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park which is located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra River in the Darrang and Sonitpur districts of Assam, India, covers an area of 78.81 square kilometres (30.43 sq mi). It was established as a sanctuary in 1985 and declared a national park on 13 April 1999.The park has a rich flora and fauna, including great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, pygmy hog, elephants, wild buffalo and tigers. It is the only stronghold of rhinoceros on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river.
The park has a chequered history of habitation. Up to 1900, it was inhabited by the local tribes. On account of an epidemic disease, the tribal population abandoned the area. However, in 1919 the British declared it as Orang Game Reserve vide notice No. 2276/R dated 31 May 1915. The game reserve came under the control of the wild life wing of the State Forest Department to meet the requirements of the Project Tiger. It was established as a wild life sanctuary in 1985, vide notification No. FRS 133/85/5 dated 20 September 1985. But in 1992, the park was renamed as Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary but this action had to be reversed due to public pressure against the renaming. Finally, the sanctuary was declared as National Park in 1999 vide notification No. FRW/28/90/154 dated 13 April 1999.
The Orang National Park, encompassing an area of 78.81 square kilometres (30.43 sq mi), lies on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, delimited between Dhansiri River border the park and join the Brahmaputra river. During the monsoon season, the park becomes a veritable flood plain with the many streams overlapping each other. These flood plains constitute twelve wetlands in the park, apart from the 26 man made water bodies.and within the districts of Darrang and Sonitpur. Pachnoi river, Belsiri river and
The park is thus formed of alluvial flood plains of the many rivers and is an integral part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. The total area of the park has been categorized into: Eastern Himalayan Moist Deciduous Forest-15.85 square kilometres (6.12 sq mi); Eastern Seasonal Swamp Forest - 3.28 square kilometres (1.27 sq mi), Eastern Wet Alluvial Grassland- 8.33 square kilometres (3.22 sq mi), Savannah Grassland- 18.17 square kilometres (7.02 sq mi), Degraded Grassland- 10.36 square kilometres (4.00 sq mi), Water body- 6.13 square kilometres (2.37 sq mi), Moist Sandy area-2.66 square kilometres (1.03 sq mi) and Dry Sandy area -4.02 square kilometres (1.55 sq mi). It has a fairly flat terrain tending north to south with a gentle slope. The elevation in the park varies from 45 metres (148 ft) to 70 metres (230 ft). It is bounded on its south and east by islands and spill channels of the river. But the flat alluvial land is seen distinctly as two terraces; the lower terrace is of recent origin on the bank of the Brahmaputra river and the other is the upper terrace to the north, separated by a high bank running through the park. The whole park is encircled by inhabited villages thus subjecting it to biotic pressure. It has fox holes built by the villagers on its west.
The climate in the park comprises three seasons namely, summer, monsoon, and winter. The park is subject to subtropical monsoon climate with rainfall precipitation occurring mostly during the period from May to September. The average annual rainfall is 3,000 millimetres (120 in).
Temperature records indicate that: During winter months of October to March it varies from 5–15 °C (41–59 °F) in the mornings to 20–25 °C (68–77 °F) in the afternoons, in April it varies from 12–25 °C (54–77 °F) in the morning Celsius to 25–30 °C (77–86 °F) in the afternoon; and in summer months of May and June, the variation is 20–28 °C (68–82 °F)in the morning to 30–32 °C (86–90 °F) in the afternoon.
Humidity in the park varies from 66% to 95%.
Orang park contains significant breeding populations of several mammalian species. Apart from the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros (68 at the last count), which is the dominant species of the national park, the other key species sharing the habitat are the royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), Asiatic elephant, pygmy hog, hog deer and wild boar. Some important species of the critically endangered and endangered category are the following.
The pygmy hog, a small wild pig, is critically endangered, C2a(ii) ver 3.1 as per IUCN listing, and is limited to about 75 animals in captivity, confined to a very few locations in and around north-western Assam, including the Orang National Park where it has been introduced. Other mammals reported are the blind Gangetic dolphin, Indian pangolin, hog deer (Axis porcinus), rhesus macaque, Bengal porcupine, Indian fox, small Indian civet, otter, leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), fishing cat (Felis viverrina) and jungle cat (Felis chaus).
The royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), categorized as endangered on the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2008), has an estimated population of about 19 (data source:Forest Department of Assam; census year 2000, based on pug marks) in the park.
The great Indian one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) even though well conserved now in many national parks and in captivity, is still in the endangered list of IUCN and its population is estimated at 68, as per census carried out by the forest department, in 2006.
More than 50 species of fish have been recorded in the river and channels flowing through the park.
The park is home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers and game birds. 47 families of Anatidae, Accipitridae, Addenda and Ardeiae are found in the park with maximum number of species. 222 species of birds have so far been recorded, some of which are: spot-billed pelican (Pelicanus philippensis), great white pelican, black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus), greater adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius), lesser adjutant stork (Leptoptilos javanicus), ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), gadwall (Anas strepera), brahminy duck, mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), pintail (Anas acuta), hornbills, Pallas's fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), king fisher and woodpecker, in addition to forest and grassland birds. But Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), which is in the threatened list of IUCN is one of the flagship species in the park with a population 30-40 (recorded second highest concentration as per Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)) and is in the threatened list of IUCN. Migratory birds as far as from America such as the milky American white pelicans have also been reported in the park.
Among reptiles, seven species of turtle and tortoise are found, out of which turtle varieties such as Lissemys punctata, Kachuga tecta are common. Among snakes, pythons and cobras are recorded here. Indian rock python, black krait, king cobra, cobra, monitor lizard are the reptiles found here.
The park has rich vegetation of forests, natural forest, non-aquatic grass/plants. The forest species found are Bombax ceiba, Dalbergia sissoo, Sterculia villosa, Trewia nudiflora, Zizyphus jujuba and Litsaea polyantha. Among the non aquatic grassland species the prominent are Phragmites karka, Arundo donax, Imperata cylindrica and Saccharum spp. The aquatic grass/plants species found are: Andropogon spp., Ipomoea reptans, Enhydra fluctuans, Nymphaea spp. and Water hyacinth (Eichornia spp).
Threats and conservation
From 1991, there was a serious threat to the survival of the park and its wild animals due to intense anthropogenic pressure (illegal occupation by immigrants from neighboring country) and by insurgency. The threats were identified as due to poaching, inadequate manpower for patrolling and security, wide river channels, inadequate infrastructure facilities and hardly any community awareness and participation in conservation. Poaching for wild animals became very serious, particularly of the great Indian rhinoceros whose population reduced to 48 vis-à-vis 97 rhinoceros in 1991. By undertaking anti poaching measures, its number had increased to 68 in 2006-07 but poaching and killing of rhinos are still reported. To check this continued poaching, a "Coordination Committee" with top officials of Darrang, Sonitpur and the Marigaon districts, including officials of the Forest Department of Assam has been set up. Under an initiative by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the Orang National Park was identified for conservation to evolve policies and programmes to protect the Indian rhinos and to assist in the development of the park. WWF India, the Government of Assam and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), with support from Zoo Basel, (Switzerland) and the IRV 2020, have undertaken this operation. WWF and Government of India, under the project titled "Rhino Vision India (RVI)", have also plans to enhance the number of rhinoceros in the park to 300 by 2020, in addition to increasing the number of tigers.
Since royal Bengal tigers are also under serious threat in the park, a conservation programme sponsored by WAZA (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) institutions and Busch Gardens has been launched. It is a closely managed tiger program called the Species Survival Plan (SSP), with the objective to improve the genetic diversity of managed animal populations. Under this programme, the project titled "Ecological Monitoring of Wild Tigers in Orang National Park, Assam, India" has been launched, in association with AARANYAK, a non-governmental organization in India. With this funding, camera traps and geo-spatial technology are used by local researchers to monitor tiger density in the park. Community participation to help manage, mitigate and prevent conflict between humans and tigers is also envisaged.
The park is well connected by road, rail and air links with nearby towns in Assam. The nearest town is Tezpur at a distance of 32 kilometres (20 mi) from the park. Guwahati is about 140 kilometres (87 mi) from the park.
It is 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) off the National Highway 52 near Orang town (Dhansirimukh), which is the nearest village that is a further 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) away. Dhansirimukh is 127 kilometres (79 mi) away from Guwahati.
The nearest airport is at Salonibari, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Tezpur (80 km from the park) in Sonitpur district around 140 kilometres (87 mi)from Guwahati.
October to April is the best season to visit the park. Visiting is restricted to 7:30-9:30 am and 2:00-3:00 pm, the park gate remains closed in between. However, advance authorization of the Divisional Forest Officer, Mangaldoi is essential to visit the park.
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