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Friday, September 18, 1998 Published at 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK

World: South Asia

Flood aid for tigers at risk

The tigers may return to find no prey

The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) is providing emergency aid to Kaziranga wildlife park in Assam, eastern India, where hundreds of animals have drowned in record floods.

The leading conservation agency is sending three aid packages to the national park.

The rescue packages will allow park staff to assess animals that have been drowned and move stranded animals back in.

Aid sent so far - including boats, mobile phones and night vision binoculars - has been provided by the WWF's Tiger Conservation Programme.

At Kaziranga, home to many endangered species, the focus is on the park's 80 tigers because they are especially vulnerable in the crisis.

Important prey species for the tigers are already under threat.

An entire herd of swamp deer has been swept away, and although 41 hog deer at risk were rescued, five rhinos were killed by poachers.

A spokesperson for the park said the loss of 20 wild buffalo is also causing concern.

Many of Kaziranga's tigers have fled into the highlands around the park to avoid the floods. When they start returning, vital prey base could be missing.

As the waters recede, the task facing rescue workers is to bring the animals safely back across a highway and railroad, into the park.

The WWF's species policy officer, Elizabeth Kemf, says that although assistance to Kaziranga has focused on tigers, the WWF is also helping the park's other species - including humans.

She says the next instalments of aid will include support to rebuild guardhouses and infrastructure around the park, as well as to replace animals lost in the floods.

Kaziranga National Park is renowned for being home to 60% of India's rare one-horned rhinos.

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