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Himalaya

Day 101: Kaziranga to Guwahati

Kaziranga, Nagaland and Assam 
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One of the great experiences of my travelling life. Washing Joiraj at Kaziranga National Park. Id never heard an elephant rumble with pleasure before.
Michael Palin - HimalayaIn the park at first light, a layer of mist draped like gauze across the cotton trees. Maan and I are climbing aboard for an elephant safari, getting on the easy way, up an access tower and then straight onto one of the wood-frame howdahs that can accommodate six people.

By happy coincidence we're aboard my new friend Joiraj, and as we step ponderously out into the park, I ask Maan about the future of the elephant in Kaziranga. He thinks that it's all part of a wider picture. Unlike in Africa, there has been a long tradition in India of domesticating and training elephant, primarily for the logging industry. Now the pendulum is swinging away from cutting down and more towards the preservation of forest, so a different role must be found if the elephant is not to return to its natural state, with all the damage that can cause to local inhabitants.

As far as Kaziranga is concerned, there is work for them, not only on tourist rides like these, but in patrolling the park itself. Wet, often swampy ground and stretches of thick grassland standing 15 feet high make large swathes of the park inaccessible by motor vehicle. For surveillance and accessibility elephant is still best. But they are expensive to run, in feed, maintenance and, believe it or not, elephant pensions, paid on retirement to the animal rather than his keeper, so some form of culling may have to be considered. Of course, as far as Joiraj is concerned, this is unthinkable and I might have to ship him back to London.
Kaziranga, Nagaland and Assam 
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The greater one-horned rhino. Almost hunted to extinction, there are now some 1500 in the park, 70 per cent of the world population. Not that they look grateful.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 101: Kaziranga to Guwahati
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Kaziranga
  • Book page no: 236

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