Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve reopened after a 7-month shutdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic on October 21

Guwahati: After a seven-month coronavirus-related shutdown, longest closure in its history, the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve opened its gates to tourists on Wednesday.

To mark the occasion, Assam chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, along with Forest Minister of State Parimal Suklabaidya, took a jeep safari ride inside the UNESCO world heritage site famous for its one-horned rhinoceros.

“After a long break, Kaziranga National Park is now open to tourists from India and abroad. The park officials have made all the necessary arrangements,” the chief minister said.

“We, as hosts, are ready to welcome tourists so that they return with a good experience,” the CM added.

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According to P Sivakumar, Director of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, the shutdown was the longest closure in the history of the park.

“Usually, the park is shut down in May-end because of the annual floods. This year, however, it was shut for an additional two and half months due to Covid-19,” Sivakumar said.

While ensuring strict Covid-19 protocol for tourists and staff, the authorities are also looking to add new attractions to the park in November, including elephant rides.

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“Starting November 1, we will add five new tourist destinations in the Kaziranga National Park – two under the north bank Biswanath Ghat and Panpur area and three under Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, that is, Chirang Pahar, Bandardubi area, Bhomoraguri,” Sivakumar said.

Considering extreme weather and road conditions inside the park, authorities have decided to permit the jeep safari only at a select few points like the Kaziranga Range in Kohora, Western Range and Bagor.

“Jeep safari in Kaziranga Range, Kohora will be open up to ‘Vaishamari’ and in Bagori, it will open up to ‘Donga watchtower’ and ‘Bimoli Tiniali’ until further orders. The date for opening of Eastern Range, Agoratoli, Burapahar Range, Ghorakati and the elephant ride in Kaziranga National Park will be notified in due course of time,” an official order said.

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