New Delhi: A total of 631 animals, including 19 rhinos, died in the recent floods in Kaziranga National Park of Assam, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.
In a written reply to the House, Forest and Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan also said that flood is a natural and recurring phenomenon in Kaziranga and it creates a variety of habitats for different species.
"Mortality of wild animals due to flood has been reported during the year only in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. As reported by the state, a total of 631 animal deaths, including 19 rhinos, have occurred in Kaziranga due to excess water brought by the flood during June-July 2012," she said.
She also informed the House that the flooding results in damage to infrastructure such as roads, anti-poaching camps, artificial high grounds.
"Similar high floods of 1988 and 1998 recorded animal mortality of 1203 and 652 respectively," Natarajan said.
Replying to a separate question on tiger deaths reported in Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, she said from 2008 till now, there are 19 such incidents of the big cats dying due to natural and other causes.
She said only two incidents of poaching were reported from the national park.
In reply to another question on Tiger Project, she said, "The country level tiger population, estimated once in every four years using the refined methodology, is 1706."
While the lower limit of the tiger population is estimated to be 1520, the upper limit has been fixed at 1909.
Providing details of the `India State Survey of Forest Report 2011`, Natarajan told the House that "Forest and tree cover in the country is 78.29 million hectare, which is 23.81 per cent of the total geographical cover. This includes 2.76 per cent of tree cover."
On the forest cover in hilly and tribal areas, she said, "In the hill and tribal districts of the country, a decrease in forest dover of 548 sq km and 679 sq km respectively has been reported as compared to the previous assessment."
The northeastern states account for one-fourth of the country`s forest cover but, "A decline of 549 sq km in forest cover as compared to the previous assessment", she said.
Replying to a query on mangrove cover in the country, Natarajan said there has been an increase of 23.34 sq km during the same period.