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Introduction ^ Top

Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam was created in 1973 at the time of launch of the Project Tiger in India. The Reserve area falls in six districts, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup and Darrang. Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the buffer of the Reserve. Manas is located at the confluence of Indian, Ethiopean and Indo-Chinese realms resulting in the magnificient biodiversity.

It is situated on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river. There are numerous rivers criss-crossing the Reserve, namely, Sankosh, Saralbangha, Hel, Tanali, Courang, Sidli (Bhor) Aio, Manas, Beki, Pathimari, kaladia, Tihunala, Morapagaldia, Nala, Braalia, Pbornodi and Dhansiri. Waterholes have also been created at Buraburijhar, Makhibaha and Daulabil, in the core area.

The Reserve runs along the Indo-Bhutan international border, with contiguous wildlife habitats in Bhutan. The river Manas flows from the gorges of Bhutan and splits into two major streams as it enters India. The peace and tranquility of the site, Mathanguri, is a gift of nature in its finest form.

While the core-zone, the Manas National Park, is a pristine wildlife habitat, the rest of the Reserve is a collection of eighteen Reserved Forests intertwined with revenue villages. While traversing the Reserve from West to East, one comes across sal forests, both virgin and degraded, moist-deciduous forests, isolated patches of ever-green forests, riverine forests, grasslands of both savannah and terai types, and miscellaneous forests.

Manas habitat provides an excellent abode to the tiger as well as prey species: Hog deer, Sambar, Swamp deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and Gaur. These species migrate freely across the international border.

Conservation History ^ Top

Manas Tiger Reserve was created in 1973, with Manas Sanctuary as its core. Manas Sanctuary with an area of 360 sq. km., was created way back in 1928. Prior to declaration of the sanctuary, the area was Reserved Forest (R.F.) called Manas R.F. and North Kamrup R.F. The Raja of Gauripur and the Cooch-Bihar Royal Family were using these areas as a hunting preserve. The sanctuary was later extended by two successive additions in 1951 and 1955 to 391 sq. km. by including the entire North Kamrup R.F. and the Manas R.F. Later the Kahitama R.F., the Kokilabari R.F. and the Panbari R.F. were added and the area was declared as Manas National Park in 1990.

Census ^ Top

Tiger population was estimated to be 89 during the 1997 tiger census.

Forest Types ^ Top

Sub-Himalayan High Alluvial Semi-Evergreen Forests ,Eastern Valoor Type of Forests ,East Himalayan Moist Mixed Deciduous Forests ,Low Alluvial Savana Woodland ,Assam Valley Semi-Evergreen Alluvial Grasslands .

Major Flora

374 species of dicots and 139 spp. of Monocots are recorded from the Park. The park is an abode for rare plants such as Reinwardia indica, Desmoduim motoruim, Pueroria subspicota, Biden pilore, Exacum teres, Pygmaeoprema herbacea, Chiloschhiosta junifera, Oplismenus megaphyllus, Magnifera sylvetica etc.

Main Species

Shorea robusta, Artocarpus Chaplasha, Bauhinia sps., Bombax ceiba, Careya arborea, Chukrasia tabularis, Dillenia pentagyna, Lagestroemia parviflora, Leea aequata, Leea Crispa, Melastoma malbathricum, Oroxylum indicum, Toona ciliata, Trewia nodiflora, Sterculia villosa, Bischofia javanica, Callicarpa arboarea, Dendrocalamus bamiltonii, Duabanga grandiflora, Holarrhaena antidysentrica, Mallotus phillippensis, Mukuna bracteata, Pouzolzia zeylanica, Syzygium formosum, Terminalia bellarica, Zingibar zecumber, Zizyphus mauritiana etc. and grasses Imperata Cylindrica, Narenga porphyrocoma, Panicum sps., Saccharum arundinaceum, thysanolaena maxima etc.

Major Fauna

Main Species

Capped Langur, golden Langur, Assamese Macaque, Rhesus Macaque, Common Langur, Slow Loris, Royal Bengal Tiger, Black Panther, Leopard Cat, Clouded Leopard, Wild Cat, Golden Cat, Fishing Cat, Large Indian Civet, Small Indian Civet, Common Palm Civet, Himalayan Palm Civet, Binturong, Common Mongoose, Small Indian Mongoose, Dhole, Jackal, Indian Fox, Red Fox, Himalayan Black Bear, Sloth Bear, Smooth Indian Otter, Yellow Throated Materna, Chinese Badger, Yellow bellied Weasel, Common Otter, Indian Pangolin, Bearded Sheathtailed Bat, Fulvous Fruit Bat, Short nosed Fruit Bat, Greater Yellow Bat, Three Stripped Palm Squirrel, Five Stripped Palm Squirrel, Malayan giant squirrel, Bay Bamboo Rat, Little Indian Field Mouse, Indian Porcupine, Asiatic Elephant, The Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, The Gaur, the Asiatic Water Buffalo, Sambar, Hog Deer, Barking Deer, Swamp Deer, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, the Gangetic Dolphin.

Endangered Species

There are 21 recorded endangered species of mammals. These are Capped Langur, golden Langur, Slow Loris, Tiger, Black Panther, Leopard Cat, Clouded Leopard, Golden Cat, Fishing Cat, Bear cat, Sloth Bear, Asian Elephant, Indian Pangolin, one-horned rhinoceros, Asiatic Water Buffalo, Swamp Deer, Particoloured Flying Squirrel, Hispid Hare and Gangetic Dolphin.

Management ^ Top

Practices, Achievements and Shortfalls

The social unrest in Assam for more than a decade has caused a situation in Manas, which demand entirely innovative and cautious management. The fragile law and order situation has effected protection. There had been several cases of killings, encounters, arson and looting, abductions, snatching of arms and wireless equipment. In spite of this, the staff is trying its best to control the situation as much as possible.

Fire is used as a management tool to maintain grasslands. Manas management is collaborating with local activist groups and making concerted efforts to stop deer poaching for consumption during feasts by the rural as well urban people.

There exist wide spread hostility towards Manas among the local people. Such psyche is detrimental to conservation interests. Very few serious attempts have been made to involve the people of the villages in the management of the Tiger Reserve.Workshops were organised in 1996 and 1997 with active participation from the political executive, forest officials, NGOs, and local representatives. But conclusions arrived at in these gatherings are yet to be translated into field action.


Special Projects  ^ Top

New Initiatives

Eco-development

Ecodevelopment involves bringing qualitative and attitudinal changes in the lives of people living in surrounding villages, and thereby securing overall ecological well being. A humble beginning towards improving amenities in these villages through ecodevelopment works, was made during 1996-97. Medical aid, drinking water facilities and energy efficient chulahs were provided to the village folk under the programme. Few environmental awareness camps were organised.

Village Forest Protection Committees

So far no Village Forest Protection Committee is functioning in the area. However, local groups such as Eco-Clubs and Manas Bandhu Groups have been formed with active facilitation of Manas management. These groups are promoting wildlife awareness, concern towards protection of flora & fauna, and involvement of people in the ecodevelopment activities.

Protection Squads / Patrolling

Patrolling parties from the interior beats and camps venture for patrolling on routine basis. Other than this, there exist armed contingents at the Directorate Headquarters at Barpeta Road and at the Range Headquarters of Bansbari, Panbari and Bhuyanpara Ranges. These render additional help in patrolling and protection as and when required.



Education and Awareness


Promoting education and awareness has been the basic agenda of the Manas management from the very inception. However, the process has been slow. High priority is being accorded at present to the awareness programs and involvement of NGOs. Activities like organizing nature camps, meeting, processions, formation of eco-clubs, Manas Bandhu groups and organizing exhibitions in schools, colleges and cultural gatherings like Bodo Sahitya Sabha, are being taken up.

Constraints ^ Top



Human population

There is only one forest village, Agrang, in the core of the Tiger Reserve. As per the socio-economic survey conducted in 1992 for the Manas National Park which is the core-zone for Manas Tiger Reserve, the population of 57 surrounding villages (including one village in core) was reported as 28,795 for 4,885 households. The population beyond these fringe villages is also heavily dependent on the Reserve for income and energy resources.

Human population growth

Year
Population
1971
1981
1991
17298
23037
28795

Livestock population

Year
Population
1971
1981
1991
15912
17280
20231

Encroachment

The eastern and western ranges of the park, Bhuyanpara and Panbari respectively, are under constant threat from the teeming fringe population trying to thrust into the park area. Habitable as well as arable land is prized commodity among the poor tribal. About 15 sq. kms. of land under the Panbari R.F. in the core-zone of the Tiger Reserve is under encroachment since 1993.
Despite repeated eviction operations, the area was forcibly re-encroached almost immediately.

Grazing

Grazing is not a serious problem in Manas Tiger Reserve. However, some areas under Kahitama, Narayanguri and Palsiguri beats and Bansbari range are affected by grazing.

FIRE

Occasional man-made, uncontrolled fires occur which have an adverse impact on the habitat.

Poaching of fauna and flora

The consumption of deer meat during feasts and gatherings is linked with traditions in the immediate vicinity of Manas which includes towns like Kokrajhar, Bijni, Manikpur, Sorbhog, Barpeta Road, Howly, Bhawanipur etc. Few among the fringe village populace, indulge in opportunistic poaching and sale of deer meat. In addition to this, incidents of poaching elephants for tusks and rhinos for horns were also reported on a higher side during 1992.

Illegal felling of trees for firewood and timber often occurs by the river sides. The main reason for such illegalities is non-availability of alternative sources of livelihood.

Poaching of wildlife

Year
Rhino
Elephant
Tiger
1991
3
2
1
1992
11
4
2
1993
22
3
2
1994
4
3
--
1995
1
5
1
1996
--
2
--
1997(up to 1.12.97)
--
1
--
Total
41
20
6

Criminals and Extremists

The social unrest in Assam for more than a decade as affected the management of Reserve. There had been looting of arms and ammunition, burning down buildings, bridges and culverts and killings. Criminal elements made use of the situation to cause destruction of habitat, poaching of animals, illegal felling of trees and encroachment.



Control of the Buffer

Buffer is not under the unified control of the management of the Reserve. It is controlled by six Divisional Forest Officers

Conflicts ^ Top

Man-Animal

Cases of livestock and poultry lifting, straying of tigers into nearby tea-gardens and human habitations, and even mauling of human beings, were not uncommon in 1970s and early 80s. It was reported that eleven persons were killed between 1979-81 by a man-eating tiger in the vicinity of Agrang beat of Manas. No compensation whatsoever has been paid in these cases. On the other hand, there is also the record of several aggressive retaliations by the villagers against the tiger. Even in 1976, a tigress was hacked to death by villagers near Bhuyanpara Range. One sub-adult tiger was found dead, half burnt near Narayanpuri in 1979. In 1984, on and off, there had been reports of a tiger entering cattle-sheds and poultry farms. However, proper reporting of such cases was not done. There might have been unreported killings of problematic animals by the villagers. Cases of killing tigers for bones have also come to light in early 1990s. Two tigers were clubbed to death by the villagers when they entered a fringe village and mauled several people in 1993. There had been several cases of killing the tigers seemingly due to on going social unrest.

Action Points ^ Top
Immediate steps need to be taken to develop trust among fringe-villagers through active involvement of local NGOs, teachers and students. The process of formation of eco-clubs and village eco-development committees, with representatives from women and weaker sections of the society, may also develop the feeling of ownership and confidence among fringe-villagers.


Tiger Reserve Service Directory