Assam’s Manas Tiger Reserve 63% short of sanctioned staff, Environment Minister told
Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve in western Assam are moving from a low to high tiger density area, according to the All India Tiger Estimation 2022 published in July. However, the bad news for the national park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the more well-known Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, is that it is almost 63% staff short.
What is Manas Tiger Reserve and where is it located?
- Location: In the Eastern Himalayan foothills of the Indian state of Assam is where you’ll find Manas National Park. Its border is shared with Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park.
- Wildlife Diversity: The Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, and pygmy hog are just a few of the uncommon and endangered endemic animals that call this area home. It is renowned for having a large population of wild water buffalo.
- Conservation Status: Manas National Park is a biosphere reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its remarkable biodiversity and importance as a refuge for endangered species.
- Name Origin: The Manas River, a significant tributary of the Brahmaputra River that runs through the centre of the national park, is where the name of the park comes from.
- Background information: A sanctuary was established there on October 1st, 1928, initially covering 360 square kilometres. It underwent several expansions over time, and on February 25, 2008, it was finally extended to 500 square kilometres.
- Geography and Terrain: Manas is a heavily forested region that is located in the Eastern Himalayan foothills. Under the foothills, the park is dispersed over a sizable, low-lying alluvial terrace. India and Bhutan share a boundary along the Manas River, which runs through the western portion of the park.
- Connectivity and Ranges: The park is separated into three ranges: the eastern range at Bhuiyapara near Pathsala, the middle range at Bansbari near Barpeta Road, and the western range at Panbari. Since these mountains are not well connected, travellers typically travel to Bansbari before visiting Mathanguri on the Manas River, close to the Bhutanese border, to explore the forest.
Which animals are protected in the Manas Tiger Reserve?
The fauna of the sanctuary includes Indian elephants, Indian rhinoceros, gaurs, wild water buffaloes, barasingha, Indian tigers, Indian leopards, clouded leopards, Asian golden cats, jungle cat, leopard cat, fishing cat, marbled cat, Indian wolf, dholes, golden jackal, Bengal fox, capped langurs, golden langurs, Assamese macaques, rhesus macaque, grey langur, slow loris, hoolock gibbons, smooth-coated otters, sloth bears, nilgai, four-horned antelope, barking deer, hog deer, black panthers, sambar deer and chitals and large Indian civet, common palm civet, spotted Linsang, yellow-throated marten, black giant squirrel, Indian porcupine, Indian pangolin, Chinese pangolin, wild boar.
What is the current issue faced by the Manas Tiger Reserve recently?
- Staff Shortage: Manas National Park is struggling with a serious staffing problem despite the encouraging growth in the tiger population.
- Inadequate Staffing: The park is now functioning with only 109 employees, which represents a shortage of more than 60%. The park is authorized to have 294 posts for foresters and forest guards.
- Positions Unfilled: Out of the 294 authorized postings, roughly 160 positions are still unfilled, which makes the staffing issue worse.
What will this lead to?
- Increased Poaching Vulnerability: Because fewer rangers and forest guards are patrolling the area, poachers can find it simpler to engage in illicit activities like killing endangered species for their body parts or selling wildlife items on the black market.
- Reduced Anti-Poaching Efforts: Due to a lack of staff, frequent anti-poaching patrols and prompt responses to poaching occurrences are less likely to be conducted, which lowers the success rate of stopping illegal operations.
- Habitat Degradation: Lack of monitoring can lead to an increase in human activities that harm wildlife’s natural habitats, such as illegal logging, encroachment, and land removal.
- Loss of Biodiversity: Without proper protection for animal populations, there is a greater danger of species extinction or decline, which would upset the ecosystem’s delicate balance and result in a loss of biodiversity.
- Inadequate Conservation Planning: Lack of manpower can prevent accurate data gathering, study, and assessment of animal populations and habitats, which makes it challenging to establish successful conservation programs. Inadequate conservation planning.
- Delayed Response to Conflicts: Quick management and response are required in cases of human-wildlife conflicts, such as encounters with dangerous animals close to human settlements. Lack of staff may cause delays in resolving such confrontations, raising worries for the safety of surrounding residents as well as wildlife.
- Impact on Endangered Species: A staffing shortage can seriously impede conservation efforts for endangered species that need specialized care and monitoring, such as translocation initiatives or medical care.