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Joint funds to conserve Manas

Guwahati, Oct. 26: Officials of India and Bhutan have called for efforts to set up a funding mechanism to ensure trans-boundary monitoring and co-operation between both the governments to conserve wildlife in Manas.

A report, Tigers Across Borders, released a few days back in Bhutan by its agriculture minister Pema Gyamtsho, hinted at the significance of Trans-boundary Manas Conservation Complex.

The report stated the findings of the first phase of a joint tiger monitoring study undertaken by Bhutan and India in 2010-11.

Partners involved in the survey included the governments of Bhutan and India, WWF, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Aaranyak and The Bhutan Foundation, which identified 14 tigers, five each living in Manas tiger reserve and in the adjoining Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, and four that are common to both the parks.

The report said the conservation complex — a trans-boundary landscape stretching from Ripu reserve forest in India in the west, to Bhutan’s Khaling wildlife sanctuary in the east, Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park in Bhutan to the north — could be the only landscape in the world with eight species of cats co-existing in the same area. The eight species include tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, marbled cat, golden cat, leopard cat, jungle cat and fishing cat.

A WWF official said the second phase would start in next month using camera traps. “Efforts need to be made to develop a sustainable funding mechanism to ensure trans-boundary monitoring and co-operation between both the governments. In general terms, a strategy that consolidates and then expands the present achievements can be followed to strengthen the trans-boundary conservation initiatives,” the report stated.

It said future plans should evolve a lasting commitment by the two governments of India and Bhutan for wildlife monitoring.

“Future programmes should also concentrate on developing specific field skills and practical training, to report poaching and illegal trade of species. These initial steps will inspire confidence to build partnerships and commitment for a long term collaboration,” the report added.

BTC deputy chief Kampha Borgoyary said the council was responsible for conserving this trans-boundary landscape and worked closely with Bhutan to protect it since its formation.

“The Manas landscape, besides Kaziranga tiger reserve, is the most promising tiger habitat in the whole of the Northeast. With adequate law enforcement, this complex will surely establish itself as a source site for tigers in the region,” the report stated.

The director-general of ministry of agriculture and forests, Bhutan, Karma Dukpa, said the two parks were looking for a common approach to conservation problems.

The report called for identification of areas, frequency and mode of joint patrolling by forest staff at the field level.

It also emphasised that information on illegal activities like poaching and other wildlife crimes should be directly shared at the highest levels of the park management and should be intimated to the frontline staff for necessary action.