Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southern Asia > Bhutan

Part of field staff working in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan.
© WWF Bhutan

Summary

Covering over 1,000km2, Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park is home tigers, leopards, rhinos and elephants as well as over 360 bird species. With 92% of the park still forested, it represents one of the best examples of an intact Eastern Himalayan ecosystem.

To preserve the park’s biodiversity, WWF is working with local wildlife authorities on an effective conservation management plan. In particular, the project supports patrols along the border with India to combat poaching and illegal hunting and logging.

Background

The Royal Manas National Park, the national heritage of Bhutan is the most important among the protected areas of Bhutan. It is the first protected area to be formally declared and to have a scientifically based management plan. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1996 and upgraded to a national park in 1993. Lying in the Southern belt of Bhutan, with the Black Mountain National Park to its North and Indian Manas Tiger Reserve to its South. The park is also connected by biological corridors to Thrumshingla National Park in the North, Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in the West, and Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary in the East. Thus, it forms a very important part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex (B2C2) landscape. It covers a vast diversity of tropical grasslands, temperate moist forests, alpine meadows, and scrublands. Among the variety of species the park holds about 45 species of mammals, 366 species of birds and 900 species of vascular plants, with many more still to be researched.

With 92% of the park still under forest cover, it represents one of the most unique and best examples of the Eastern Himalayan ecosystem.

Objectives

1. Conserve the biodiversity of the park through the implementation of a five-year conservation management plan.

2. Build and strengthen the capacity of the park management and local communities through training, education and infrastructure development.

3. Provide rural development opportunities for residents of RMNP through the integration of conservation and development.

Solution

The project implementation was strategized differently than it was envisaged largely due to the Indian militants in and around the project area. The project focused anti-poaching patrolling along the border with India to manage illegal activities, such as, hunting, logging, harvesting forest products, etc. The project strengthened the patrolling units, and equipped them with Motorola communication system and field gears.

The project focused ICDP activities and awareness programmes in the Northern part of the park, where the problems were relatively less.

Achievement

- During the project period, one warden office and 11 units of staff residential quarter were constructed and fenced in Umling. More than 10 staff were transferred to Umling and began to be operational.

- Communications tools were inadequate in RMNP. The project procured and installed one Motorola base set in the park headquarter, one base set and a repeater in Umling Warden post and supplied additional 8 mobile handsets. Also one set of high frequency wireless communication equipment have been procured and installed in the park head office in Gelephu. These equipments are used to communicate with the park head office during the patrolling.

- RMNP has more than 70 field staff who are mostly engaged in protecting the biodiversity of the park and spend more than 60% of their time patrolling. In order to enhance their working capability as the park is in tropical and sub-tropical zones and people have to stay in the make shift type of camps, the project supplied sleeping bags, rain-gears, sleeping mats, rucksacks and tents.

- The five-year conservation management plan of Royal Manas need revision so the project procures basic survey equipment such as binoculars, GPS and altimeter. Also one set computer and printer has been procured which will be used for database management.

- The park boundary runs along the international boundary with India where many poachers enter into the park. In order to keep the clear sightings along the border, bush and shrubs were removed.

- The park manager attended a month-long course on biodiversity management in the Smithsonian Institute in the United States and 10 park staff were sent to India on a ten-day study tour where they visited the scientifically managed parks such Corbett National Park and Rajaji National Park. This has greatly enhanced the working capacity of the park staff in managing Royal Manas.

- Video filming of the park has been completed and broadcasted through Bhutan’s television every Friday night to create awareness amongst the general public on the value of conservation of biodiversity.

- In 2006, 50 sets of field gears (sleeping bags, mats, rucksacks) and 70 rain gears were provided to field staff to enhance the efficiency overall implementation and monitoring of the park field activites. In addition, 4 binoculars and 6 complete set of Motorola handsets are anticipated to significantly improve the patrolling efficiency of the park field staff.

- Recent biodiversity survey revealed that out of 17 mammal species listed as totally protected in the Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 (FNCA), 10 species have been confirmed. According to D. S. Rai (2006) despite continuous threats to species and their habitats, RMNP still has intact population of mammals and habitats.

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