Whoa! Chased by an angry rhino at Kaziranga

Kaziranga. I heard the name often as a child and it always sounded like someplace exotic and remote. On the last day of the year gone by, we found ourselves at the gates of this sprawling national park, a World Heritage Site and a safe haven for the protected one-horned rhino.

Located in the state of Assam in the north-eastern part of India, Kaziranga has had a checkered history. It was recognized as a habitat in need of protection by Mary Curzon, the wife of the Viceroy Lord Curzon, as early as 1904 and went through several nomenclatures of protection till it officially became a designated national park in 1968. Kaziranga has been threatened by repeated floods and the ongoing separatist conflicts and insurgencies in Assam. However, the constant fight against illegal poaching of the rhino (for its horn, used in traditional medicine in various Asian cultures) has been the worst hazard for the park and for this interesting creature. In fact, a dead male rhino was found in the park today with its horn sawed off. This is the second incident within the first 5 days of 2015! Even so, of about 3000 one-horned rhinos in the wild today (the numbers had dwindled to 600 in 1975), some 2500 are reportedly in Assam and, despite the hazards, Kaziranga can be considered a conservation success story.

Now the rhino isn’t a creature that evokes the same kind of popular fascination as say, the tiger, who we fear in an admiring kind of way. I’ve heard of many return disappointed. But we found the rhino to be a magnificent animal and we were lucky to see several of them up close. In fact, we were lucky enough to actually be chased by one angry mother rhino who was not happy about us being anywhere near her baby!

See the story unfold in the pic below…

Shortly after dawn, the immense expanse of the forest and its silences. We shiver with the cold and in anticipation too...

Shortly after dawn, the immense expanse of the forest and its silences. We shiver with the cold and in anticipation too…

Mist and rolling hillsides greet us at first. Its heart-breakingly beautiful here

Mist and rolling hillsides greet us at first. Its heart-breakingly beautiful here

Hog deer stare out at us from the greenery that surrounds us. They aren't afraid, just curious. Just like we are...

Hog deer stare out at us from the greenery that surrounds us. They aren’t afraid, just curious. Just like we are…

We halt near a check post. The ranger pulls this baby out from a pond nearby

We halt near a check post. The ranger pulls this baby out from a pond nearby. We drive on…

All of a sudden, the jeep halts. A female sambar stands before us. She then decides we are no threat and crosses the trail, heading into the brush once again

All of a sudden, the jeep halts. A female sambar deer stands before us. She then decides we are no threat and crosses the trail, heading into the brush once again

The reclusive sambar male, with his glorious antlers, doesn't show as much trust. He backs into the forest...

The reclusive sambar male, with his glorious antlers, doesn’t show as much trust. He backs into the forest…

We drive on. At one point, we see wild buffalo cross a stream. Slow and lumbering. Free...

We drive on. At one point, we see wild buffalo cross a stream. Slow and lumbering. Free…

We enter rhino country and soon after, we spot our first rhino

We enter rhino country and soon after, we spot our first rhino. The morning light is mellow and he looks peaceful. The Indian rhinoceros male weighs 2200 kgs and is the second largest terrestrial animal in Asia, after the elephant.

He lumbers away from us and Aadyaa exclaims, "His skin is stitched mumma!"

He lumbers away from us and Aadyaa exclaims, “His skin is stitched mumma!”

i understood one-horned rhinos to be solitary creatures, but here begin to see them in multiples...

I understood one-horned rhinos to be solitary creatures, but here we begin to see them in multiples…

I also throught they were reticent, but here this one turned around to stare and show off his one-horn!

I also thought they were reticent, but here this one turned around to stare and show off his one-horn!

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On our right, the sky turns lighter. In the tall grass, we discern a group of three rhinos…

Yes, three. And one of them is a baby! The ranger gets excited. Tells us to  prepare for the chase to begin...

Yes, three. And one of them is a baby! The ranger gets excited. He tells us to prepare for the chase…

She comes in for the chase, as predicted. I can't claim this was terrifying. I was being urged to shoot and was standing upright in a moving jeep. The dust the rhino kicked up, the bulk of her as she charged, half heartedly I understand, made for an interesting picture....

She comes in for the chase, as predicted. I can’t claim this was terrifying. The forest ranger seemed calm. I was being urged to shoot and was standing upright in a moving jeep. Click! Jostle! Click! The dust the rhino kicked up, the bulk of her as she charged, half-heartedly I understand, made for an interesting picture….

I understand why the driver and ranger are calm. The rhino mumma only wants us off her turf. She stops chasing. Aadyaa, who has been rather scared, heaves a sigh of relief!

I understand why the driver and ranger are calm. The rhino mumma only wants us off her turf. She slows down and watches us drive off. Aadyaa, who has been rather scared, heaves a sigh of relief!

On our way back, ten minutes later, we find the mother-baby duo again. A little bit further from us, less threatened.

On our way back, ten minutes later, we find the mother-baby duo again. A little bit further from us, less threatened.

She walks away from us, with her calf. Adieu, magnificent mommy!

She walks away from us, with her calf. Adieu, magnificent mommy!

The enchanting jungle is peaceful as we leave. Rhinos- check! Vussaloes- check! Deer- check! Wild elephants, we missed you, but we'll be back someday!

The enchanting jungle is peaceful as we leave. Rhinos- check! Wild buffaloes- check! Deer- check! Wild boar-check! Migratory birds- check! Wild elephants, we missed you, but we’ll be back someday!

 

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on January 5, 2015, in Travel & Experiences and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Your political correctness is stunning. You do not even once mention that the biggest threat is illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants having encroached almost 2,000 + hectares of the adjoining areas are now laying claim to the whole park and it is today these people who are forming the main poaching mafia unlike previous times when organised gangs worked today almost every Bangla farmer is a potential poacher as it is their belief that if the Rhino does not exist the land will be handed over to them.

  2. Lovely pictures Mukta and your write up was very interesting.Must do a visit.

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