Kaziranga National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985 for its large population of one-horned rhino, tigers, elephants, panthers, bears and many birds, and its representation of the Brahmaputra floodplain and grassland ecosystem undisturbed by man. At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee was provided a brief report on the property after the joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN reactive monitoring mission to Manas National Park was able to spend a short time in the Kaziranga National Park discussing its state of conservation. The World Heritage Committee recognised that the property was well managed, and that efforts were underway to extend the property, but requested information on progress in curbing poaching, providing sufficient staff and funding, and Environmental Impact Assessment of the planned upgrade to the NH37 national highway crossing the property. Additional threats were reported from isolation of the property and fragmentation of the broader ecosystem from agricultural development, interbreeding of wild buffalo with domesticated cattle, invasive species, and overgrazing.
On 20 March 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides an update on management activities.
Following the recommendations of the informal visit to the property in 2008, the report notes that the Government of Assam is reviewing a proposal to give the status of a Wildlife Sanctuary to a part of the North Karbi Anglong reserve forest and that the final notification is expected shortly.
The report confirms that funding of the property comes from the Government of Assam through its schemes relating to the development of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries and other wildlife areas, as well as from the Central Government through the Project Elephant and Project Tiger financing mechanisms. Concerning the timely delivery of central funds to the property, the report notes that at the time of the State party report, the first instalments for the budget year 2008/09 had been released. With regard to the planned upgrading of the NH-37 highway, the report notes that the National Highway Authority has proposed three alternatives. These include 1) an alternate route via NH37A and NH52 to Bokaghat, 2) improvements to NH37 with animal passes, and 3) retaining NH37 along Kaziranga as a two lane highway. The Chief Wildlife Warden has supported the 1st option of the alternate route as the preferred option. The State Party did not provide further information on the Environmental Impact Assessment, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, nor information on when the final decision would be made.
Efforts to curb poaching are reported to include the provision of adequate rifles and ammunition to the additional 120 Armed Home Guards, and the phased recruitment of staff. The State Party has established 55 Eco-development Communities in villages neighbouring the property. These are community groups which aim to build capacity and promote sustainable development in local communities. The State Party reports on improved collection of intelligence on poaching activities, and the Assam Forest Protection Force is establishing headquarters on the southern periphery of the property. Media reports on poaching in the property indicate that 8 rhinos were poached in 2008, in addition to the 24 poached in 2007. Further reports in March 2009, indicated that several cases had been registered against two poachers who had also been involved in assaulting park staff. These media reports also stated that seizures of rhino horns were not being adequately monitored and that this has the potential to contribute to the on-going illegal trade in rhino horns and poaching of rhinos. IUCN also notes the media reports in February 2009 of tigers being poisoned by villagers and encourages the State Party to investigate human-wildlife conflict and measures to reduce these conflicts.
IUCN has received reports from a local NGO, Aaranyak that a healthy tiger population exists within the property. IUCN also notes that the 2007 Enhancing Our Heritage Management Effectiveness evaluation had identified a number of threats to the property such as the extensive settlements on the southern boundary of the property, invasive species such as water hyacinth, overgrazing by buffalo, potential dam construction, and traffic regulation on the NH 37. IUCN also notes that the management plan of the property is due for review in 2009 and encourages the State Party to report on the review of this plan. Plans by the Governments of India and Assam to develop dams in Assam and on the Brahmaputra River were noted in the 2007 Enhancing Our Heritage Management Effectivness report for Kaziranga and in the article by V V.B. Mathur, Ashok Verma, Nigel Dudley, Sue Stolton, Marc Hockings and Robyn James of the
UNF-UNESCO Enhancing Our Heritage Project Team http://whc.unesco.org/uploads/activities/documents/activity-331-8.pdf. The annual flooding of the property, 50% in September 2009 (according to The Telegraph, Calcutta India, 2 September 2008) is an integral part of the ecosystem process within the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned that the current budget of the property remains inadequate. To strengthen ongoing monitoring of the biodiversity and ecosystem values of the property, the State Party is encouraged to report on trends in key wildlife species and ecosystems to help to monitor the impact of poaching and broader ecosystem fragmentation. The State Party is also encouraged to increase its engagement with local communities, particularly on the southern border of the property where most poaching is said to originate.