National Geographic : 2010 Aug
Assam, for it lies on a migratory route of herds following the last tatters of forest between Kazi- ranga and the Himalayan foothills to the north. During high water, animals also migrate south- ward toward the Karbi Hills. Five small but abso- lutely vital habitat bridges were recently added to the park to ease the journey. Along the way the animals confront National Highway 37, Assam's main east-west transportation route. Guards set up a slalom course of barriers to slow truck tra c at the most heavily used crossing sites. Neverthe- less, elephants, rhinos, pythons, and deer on the move become roadkill most every year. A pro- posal to widen the route to four lanes has had India's conservation community in a sweat. "If Highway 37 is made a freeway, it's a death knell for Kaziranga," declared Asad Rahmani, director of the Bombay Natural History Society. O cials are considering backing o the four- lane plan in favor of upgrading a parallel road north of the river. "We still need to control the encroachment of other development," he said. " e government should buy land for more cor- ridors before Kaziranga becomes cut o ." Even if links to the Karbi Hills are strength- ened, what of the hills themselves? And the uplands sloping toward the Himalaya? Wood- cutters, stone-quarry operators, herders, and squatters populate more of the state's forest reserves in those places every year, changing a continuous tree cover into a weedy patchwork of cutover, eroding slopes. It helps that India has declared a Kaziranga--Karbi Anglong Ele- phant Reserve that extends far to the south and a Kaziranga Tiger Reserve that reaches many miles north. But they are little more than hope- ful lines on a map at this stage, and the nonpark portions keep lling with land-hungry people. e challenge is to connect the remnants as much as possible. If the obstacles start to look overwhelming, think about the dedicated guards at lonely outposts and about Budheswar Konwar and the rhino-country rule. Remember? No al- lowed for scared. j n Society Grant This project was funded in part by your National Geographic Society membership.