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Manas turns into big cat haven

- Joint survey finds 25 tigers across transboundary landscape

Guwahati, Sept. 4: If William Blake had to scout for a muse, he would certainly have eyed the Manas landscape, where the tiger is “burning bright,” infusing fresh hopes in wildlife lovers and conservationists alike.

Altogether 25 tigers have been camera-trapped during the second transboundary tiger-monitoring programme conducted across Manas National Park in India and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. Of these, two tigers have been found in both parks.

“This is cheerful news and shows that Manas is a good source site for tigers,” A.C. Das, field director of Manas National Park, told The Telegraph.

The camera-trapping work was conducted from February to April this year by representatives from Aaranyak, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, forest staff of Royal Manas National Park, Manas National Park and Wildlife Institute of India.

Cameras were placed at 133 locations in Manas National Park and at 72 locations at Royal Manas National Park.

Data analysis was conducted here during the two-day meeting of the Tansboundary Manas Conservation Area, which concluded today. The meeting was attended by representatives from both sides. The Bhutan side was led by Royal Manas director Tenzun Wangchuk and officials from WWF Bhutan.

“The joint tiger survey has brought added cheer with the first female tiger camera-captured in 2006 at Manas being found with two grown-up cubs. This makes her average survival age at least 12 years,” a Manas official said.

“The exercise is a success story where several stakeholders, forest departments, NGOs and grassroots-based community organisations joined hands to protect the Manas landscape,” the forest official said.

An area of 896 square km was covered in Royal Manas National Park and 300 square km in Manas National Park during the joint tiger monitoring. Some areas on either side could not be covered owing to logistic issues.

The first transboundary tiger monitoring was done in 2011, which had identified 14 tigers on the landscape.

Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak, said this is an exemplary transboundary collaboration of government and NGOs to study tigers across international borders. “The Transboundary Manas Conservation Area is one of the largest tiger conservation areas in the region and has a very high potential to increase tiger numbers in the next 10 years provided the protection in Manas can be improved immediately.”

“It is good to see that for the second time the joint exercise was done successfully on this transboundary landscape and in terms of numbers, it shows an increase compared to the last exercise. We need to continue the monitoring work periodically,” Anupam Sarmah, head, Assam landscapes, WWF India, told this correspondent.

Sources said the survey would gladden the hearts of authorities and others working in Manas who have to work under difficult circumstances.

The Transboundary Manas Conservation Area straddles the Indo-Bhutanese border from the Ripu reserve forest in India in the west to Bhutan’s Khaling wildlife sanctuary in the east to Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park in Bhutan to the north.

The Indo-Bhutan Manas conservation landscape is home to some rare, critically endangered and endemic flora and fauna such as pygmy hog, Bengal florican, great one-horned rhino, royal Bengal tigers, elephants, golden langurs and hispid hare. “It would have been much better if there was a memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between the two countries. Though there have been meetings, including one last year, nothing concrete has come out of it,” a source said.


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