Kaziranga (Assam): The Kaziranga National Park (KNP), famed for its one-horned rhinos, opened to tourists Friday after it was routinely closed in May last before the onset of monsoons.
The Park was opened for four months by Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain today, with over 120 foreign visitors taking elephant rides and jeep safaris inside the World Heritage Park.
Over 67 foreign travellers besides hundreds of domestic tourists took the elephant rides on 17 pachyderms pressed into service from the Mihimukh ground inside the Park, KNP officials said.
In the Bagori range of KNP, sources said, more than 50 foreigners took rides on 16 elephants despite Kaziranga being in the news this year because of the killing of 36 rhinos so far by poachers.
Open jeep safaris in 100 vehicles for tourists also started today in the Bagori, Kohora and Agaratoli ranges.
The KNP authority, Forest Department, Tourism Department, Kaziranga Jeep Safari Association and other private tour operators had prepared to welcome both foreign and domestic tourists to Kaziranga today, KNP director Niranjan Kumar Vasu said.
The Park authority repaired the bridges damaged by floods, painted tracks along the tourist movement zone, marked out points for spotting animal movement, besides the sensitive and hypersensitive areas where tourists are not allowed without security, Vasu said.
The watch towers were given a new look with fresh coat of paint and the internal roads repaired within the four ranges of Agaratoli, Kohora, Bagori and Burapahar where rhino habitation is specially high.
Tourist flow to KNP is on an upward trend since 2007, the officials added.
According to an official statement, during 2011-2012 KNP earned Rs 1.49 crore from 1,17,411 domestic and 7521 foreign visitors, while during 2012-2013 the Park earned Rs 2.06 crore from 90153 domestic and 7263 foreign tourists.
The 430 sqkm Park extending up to Golaghat and Nagaon districts hosts two-thirds of the world`s great one-horned Rhinoceroses, has the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and is home to elephants, swamp deer, wild water buffalo, besides a wide variety of avifaunal species.
The other National Park and World Heritage Site in Assam ? Manas National Park ? has already reopened for tourists from October 27.