GUWAHATI: Assam's Manas National Park has witnessed a three-fold increase in its tiger population in ten years, thanks to the combined efforts of the government, agencies, NGOs and local communities.
According to a study carried out last year, the park has an estimated tiger population of 52. Back in 2010, it had around 15-16 tigers, said Firoz Ahmed, head of tiger research and conservation division of Aaranyak, which is a biodiversity conservation and research organisation.
What is more exciting is that three tigers were spotted at the park's newly-added 360 sq km "first addition" tiger habitat. Forest officials are ecstatic.
"I am very pleased to observe the cohesion, ownership and partnership of government and non-government entities to bring the park back to the current state. This is not seen anywhere in Assam or elsewhere in the country," the state's Principal Chief Conservator of Forest AM Singh said.
The park, located in Bodoland Territorial Region, had to bear the brunt of ethno-political conflict that started in the late 1980s and continued until 2003 when the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was created as a political solution to the Bodo agitation for a separate state.
"The Manas National Park has surprised all with its tiger numbers in 2019... During the times of conflict, the park infrastructure was badly damaged... The whole park was left open due to lack of patrol by forest staff who were harmed by armed miscreants at times. This led to thinning of populations of almost all species and loss of habitats due to severe human disturbances," Aaranyak said in a statement.
The turnaround began around 2005 when local community organizations were encouraged by park managers and the BTC administration to safeguard the park's sanctity. This reaped dividends. While all the rhinos were poached by the time peace returned, most herbivores were killed for meat. The tigers too were at the receiving end. They were poached and some moved deep into Bhutan hills.
The park has come a long way since in conservation of tigers and other animals. It is one of the few Reserves, originally declared to be "Project Tiger Reserve" by the Central government in 1972.
The continuous scientific monitoring of tigers, prey animals and habitats at Manas, as required, is led by the park’s field director and assisted by Aaranyak, WWF-India and other grassroots level NGOs. Aaranyak and WWF-India have been continuing its support to the park management since 2010.
The BTC administration, state government and National Tiger Conservation Authority invested heavily to improve the Tiger Reserve's infrastructure and law enforcement which contributed to the recovery of habitats, and in the numbers of prey animals, tigers and other carnivores.
Anindya Swargiyari, Additional PCCF of BTC Forest Department, said, "The frontline staff and non-profit organizations immensely supported the BTC Forest Department in increasing the tiger population."
Aaranyak CEO Bibhab Kumar Talukdar said Aaranyak was glad to assist the authorities to regain the past glory of the park which is a World Heritage site, a Tiger Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve and also an important bird area.
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