This week Catherine Capon, follows in the footsteps of Prince William and The Duchess of Cambridge, as she visits an eco tourism hotspot, the Kaziranga National Park, and examines a conservation success story, the preservation of the Indian rhino.
The Indian Rhino (yes, India has rhinos!) is an example of an epic conservation success story that has seen the species rebound in just over a century. By 1904, only 12 Indian Rhinos existed in an area of Assam that was previously famous for seeing these living unicorns (Indian Rhinos have just one horn unlike their African cousins). Mary Curzon, who was wife of the Viceroy of India, visited the region and was hugely disappointed not to see a single one. She became so concerned about their dwindling numbers that she asked her husband to do everything in his power to save them. On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created which is now Kaziranga National Park.
The Best Place to See Indian Rhinos
Kaziranga National Park is the best place on the planet to see Indian Rhinos. There are now over 2,000 individuals living in the park which makes up about 70% of the total population. This is no mean feat considering the park’s proximity to China where there is the highest demand for illegal rhino horn. Protected habitats, poaching patrols and ecotourism have been critical in reestablishing the rhino’s numbers in Assam. On my visit to Kaziranga earlier this year, I saw dozens of rhinos and some pretty impressive behaviour which we captured in our film.
A Plethora of Wildlife
The diversity and magnitude of wildlife that Kaziranga shelters is terrifyingly rare in our modern world and responsible ecotourism is essential to keep it so bountiful. By June of this year, Assam had already lost 12 of its rhinos to poachers but ecotourism can work to help local people view rhinos as being worth more alive than dead. Back in Africa, a study was completed in 2014 with elephants to prove that each individual African Elephant is worth more living. The conclusion was indisputable. In it’s lifetime, a single elephant can generate $1.6 million to the local economy via attracting ecotourists versus selling the tusks for approximately $21,000. Therefore, a realistic tool to continuing the conservation efforts in Kaziranga is by promoting the national park as an ecotourism destination (which was the very reason for my trip). Get booking for the sake of the rhinos!
• How do you get there? You can fly from Delhi to Guwahati and then it’s a six hour drive to the park. Don’t worry though, most lodges will arrange the transfer from Guwahati.
• Where to stay? I stayed at the Diphlu River Lodge shortly before The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and if it’s good enough for them…! My guide was a hugely knowledgeable and passionate individual called Pallab Saikia. As well as guiding, Pallab works for a local NGO that rescues and rehabilitates injured animals that have been hurt by cars or people.
• When to go? The best time to visit is January to mid-April before the monsoon starts in May.
Introducing Catherine Capon, intrepid zoologist, naturalist, wildlife filmmaker, and our brilliant new contributor to Ethical Hedonist Magazine. Catherine will be bringing us up close and personal with lions, tigers, orangutans, rhinos, elephants, eagles and whatever else she discovers, as she travels the world’s environmental hotspots and reports on the fight to save endangered species before it is too late.
Up Close and Personal with Animal Conservation
Soak up Cat’s charismatic, animal adventures as she reports on the colourful and surprising spectacles of the natural world – from India’s national parks – to the rainforests of South America – to America’s once teeming, great buffalo plains. If you love watching David Attenborough’s sweeping, majestic programmes on nature and bio diversity, you will love Cat’s intimate, sometimes unexpected, wildlife adventure documentaries. And let’s not forget the remarkable people from rangers to scientists, conservation charities and filmmakers who are doing a very difficult job of protecting species, habitat and demonstrating just how we all depend on the fragile , interconnected thread of bio diversity. Without it, both humans and animals will cease to flourish on our extraordinary planet earth.
Now these heroes and heroines are the Indiana Jones’s of the natural world!
Alison Jane – Editor-in-Chief EthicalHedonist@AlisonJaneReid
Follow Cat on Twitter @CatherineCapon
Editor’s Comment on the Newsnight Story – This video is a contributor piece, and at the time of going to press, we were not aware of issues in the park, relating to alleged actions by wardens. For conservation to be successful and thrive, it has to work in co-operation and harmony with the needs of local, indigenous people. We will be taking the matter up with our contributor, Catherine Capon.