Big Mammals in Kaziranga
Indian rhinos
Asian elephants
Asian buffalo
Swamp deer
Domestic elephants
'Tiger dog'
Eurasian hoopoe
Bengal monitor lizard
Kaziranga National Park in northern India is home to big numbers of India's biggest mammals - the Indian rhinoceros, Asian elephant and Asian buffalo.
The Indian rhino in Kaziranga must be one of the world's greatest wildlife conservation success stories. From a low of 12 animals in the early 20th century, the rhino population
in the Park has risen steadily, and the last census (2006) estimated that Kaziranga is now home to over 1800 Indian rhinos - more than 70% of the global population of this Endangered species.
I visited Kaziranga in March 2008 to photograph the rhinos. The Park is obviously the best place in the world to see them, and despite a bad spate of poaching in 2007 the rhinos are still very tolerant of close approaches, especially from the domestic elephants which are used to take tourists out onto the grasslands soon after sunrise.
Kaziranga National Park gate
Indian rhinos
The Indian rhino is one of the world's five remaining rhinoceros species. It is almost as big as the better-known white rhino of Africa - male Indian rhinos weigh around 2200kg (over 4800 pounds)
. You don't realise quite how big these animals are when they're out on the grasslands with no trees to give a sense of scale. But when this male crossed the road in front of our jeep, there was no doubt about who had right of way.
Indian rhino crossing the road
Indian rhino Indian rhino
Indian rhino Indian rhino
Indian rhino
Indian rhinos spend more time in the water than other rhino species, and a good time to photograph them is when they come down to the rivers or mud wallows.
Indian rhino Indian rhino wallowing
Indian rhino wallowing (next to pond heron) Indian rhino wallowing
Indian rhino Indian rhino

Asian elephants
The wild elephants were mostly seen feeding on the grasslands or bathing and drinking in the rivers, but occasionally one would wander across the road in front of our jeeps.

Asian elephant
Asian elephants Asian elephants
Asian elephants mud-bathing
Asian elephants mud-bathing

Asian buffalo
The wild Asian buffalo is the ancestor of the familiar domestic water buffalo but is (or should be) significantly larger. The wild species is Endangered, with less than 4000 individuals left spread across India, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand, and one of the main threats to its survival is hybridisation with domestic animals. Unfortunately this seems to be happening in and around Kaziranga, with the wild and domestic buffalo looking quite similar in size.
 Wild Asian buffalo mother and calf Wild Asian buffalo mother and calf
Wild Asian buffalo
Swamp deer
Because there are so many large herbivores at Kaziranga, there isn't much room in the food web for medium-sized species such as deer. However swamp deer (or barasingha) are common, and the park is an important stronghold for this globally Threatened species.
Swamp deer female
Swamp deer male  Swamp deer
Domestic elephants
Several domestic elephants are used to take tourists out onto the grasslands to see the rhinos. Two of the working elephants still had youngsters in tow, and the babies would follow their mothers on the elephant rides.

Elephant-back safari Elephant-back safari
Domestic elephant babies Domestic elephant babies
On a jeep drive in the Western range of Kaziranga, we encountered a female domestic elephant with her calf which was only six days old. The mother was understandably protective, but still allowed me to get quite close to take these photographs.
Domestic elephant mother and baby Domestic elephant mother and baby
Domestic elephant baby, six days old Domestic elephant baby, six days old
Domestic elephant tusker (male) bathing
Domestic 'tusker' (male) bathing
'Tiger dog'
This puppy at a local tourist camp had been 'painted' with tiger markings.
Puppy painted with tiger markings Puppy painted with tiger markings

Eurasian hoopoe
In February and March each year, the dry grasslands at Kaziranga either burn naturally or are set alight in controlled burns. This regenerates the vegetation. Insectivorous birds such as hoopoes and rollers are quick to take advantage of the fact that the fires flush small invertebrate prey out of the grass.
Eurasian hoopoe Eurasian hoopoe

Bengal monitor lizard
Bengal monitor lizard
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Last updated 28 April 2008