Guwahati: Earlier this year, an Indo-French initiative was announced regarding the adoption of various new measures at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. 

Construction of artificial highlands where animals can escape during floods; more than 200 anti-poaching camps and alternate livelihood training for local communities are some of the measures taken at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam which will form the cornerstone of an Indo-French initiative.

The collaboration between France and India with technical and financial assistance and the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership will encourage partnership activities for interesting natural parks of the Indo-Pacific region. These activities include biodiversity conservation, wildlife management and engagement with local communities.

Kaziranga National Park, one of the World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO, is a part of a larger Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC) for which the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has sanctioned a fund of €80.2 million for a 10-year period, between 2014-2024, Indian Express reported.

The project conceptualized the reforestation of 33,500 hectares of land and the training of 10,000 community members in alternate livelihoods by 2024, the report said.

Moreover, the 457 sq km Kaziranga National Park that remains the heart of the programme.

According to Chief Conservator of Forests and Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve Director Jatindra Sarma, “The population of animals in the park is the healthiest it has ever been. With the aid of AFD funding, conservation has been ramped up with few poaching cases recorded in the past five years.”

“There was just one case of poaching this year, one in 2021 and two cases the year before that. We have successfully stopped poaching in the area,” said Sarma.

Sarma said that the AFD programme has been most effective in the skilling of communities in the area, particularly forest-dwelling communities.

Assam officials said that sometimes community members were engaged in illegal tree felling by middlemen for illegal timber trade, and they also gave shelter to poachers, which no longer happens.

One of the major reasons for the degradation of forests around the reserve is the illegal timber trade. The Assam government has now begun a massive reforestation drive with the help of the AFD.

Divisional Forest Officer, Kaziranga Park, Ramesh Gogoi said the “protection strategy” adopted by Kaziranga involves setting up 223 anti-poaching camps across the park.

“We ensured that the concentration of camps is higher in areas where there has traditionally been a poaching pressure. The AFD funding has helped us equip the camps as well as build the requisite infrastructure,’’ said Gogoi.

There are 35 six-seven-foot tall embankments or highlands that have been constructed in various areas around the park, that animals can climb onto and seek refuge during the annual flooding.

The project has also developed infrared-based early warning systems, triggered by elephant footfall, to either scare off herds from human habitat or warn villagers.

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