GUWAHATI, Dec 8 - Almost driven to extinction barely one-and-a-half-decade back, the tiger has made a strong comeback in Manas National Park. From ten tigers in 2010, the big cat population has trebled to 30 now, as per the latest estimation. In 2003, the tiger count was just a single in Manas which is also one of India�s earliest tiger reserves. Asserting that Manas has been able to leave behind its prolonged period of ethno-social unrest that had extracted a heavy toll of almost every wildlife population, Manas Tiger Reserve Field Director Amol Sarma told The Assam Tribune that the latest tiger estimation (2019-20) of 26 adults and four cubs was a testimony to the unstinted efforts put by the forest department, voluntary bodies and local communities.
�The growing number of the tiger augurs well for long-term conservation in Manas that also boasts of diverse herbivore population. With more efforts directed towards securing a larger tiger habitat together with the contiguous Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan, we are confident of reaching new milestones,� Sarma said.
Both Manas and Royal Manas were recently awarded the TX2 Tiger Conservation Excellence Award this year in recognition of their efforts towards doubling their tiger counts within a short span.
A minimum of 25 adult tigers were captured in all the three ranges of the park � Bhuyanpara, Bansbari and Panbari � that had only ten individuals in 2010. Significantly, a study in the first addition to Manas National Park, a newly-added 360-sq km tiger habitat, resulted in photo capture of three individual tigers in 2019.
Anindya Swargoyari, APCCF & CHD, BTC forest department, said Manas has shown the world that doubling tiger numbers is possible, since the historic commitment made by the heads of 13 tiger range countries in 2010 in The Tiger Summit held at St Petersburg, Russia.
�The contribution of frontline staff and non-profit organisations to support the BTC forest department is immense in increasing the tiger numbers by three-fold over the last decade,� he added.
The continuous scientific monitoring of tigers, prey animals and habitats at Manas as required by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the park management is led by the Field Director and assisted by Aaranyak and WWF-India and other grassroots NGOs.
AM Singh, PCCF & HoFF, Assam forest department said, �I am very pleased to observe the cohesion, ownership and partnership of government and non-government entities to bring Manas back to current state. This is not seen anywhere in Assam or elsewhere in the country.�
The Tiger Research and Conservation Division of Aaranyak initiated the Manas Tiger Conservation Programme (MTCP) in 2015 that integrated multiple approaches (livelihoods, law enforcement support, conservation education and biological monitoring) for conservation to improve tiger habitats and support tiger, co-predators and prey population in the national park. This has been a multi-agency collaborative programme involving the BTC forest department, park management, Wildlife Conservation Trust and Panthera supported by the Integrated Tiger and Habitat Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of the IUCN-KFW.
Under the programme, 1,400 households from fringe villages of Manas National Park were covered to strengthen their alternative livelihood skills. Many of these households have reported higher and sustainable annual income in 2019 compared to the baseline year 2015. The programme along with other interventions from the government agencies has been able to secure and improve habitats in Manas through reduced human activity inside the park that remained poorly protected for a long time during and aftermath of the armed conflict.
Aaranyak secretary general Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar said Aaranyak had been working in the Manas landscape proactively since 2005, assisting the park authorities to regain the past glory of Manas National Park � also a World Heritage site, a Tiger Reserve, a Biosphere Reserve and also Important Bird Area.
The BTC authorities, the State government and NTCA have invested significantly in Manas Tiger Reserve in recent years to improve its infrastructure and law enforcement that has contributed to the recovery of the habitats, prey animals and tigers and other carnivores.
Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve had borne the brunt of a decade-long ethno-political conflict unrest since the late 1980s during which the park infrastructure was badly damaged and it was virtually left unguarded.