Inscription year 1985 Country India



Manas Wildlife Sanctuary on the borders of the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical realms is the most diverse of India’s wildlife reserves. It lies on a gentle alluvial slope in the foothills of the Himalayas, where wooded hills give way to grasslands and tropical forest. It is home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species such as the tiger, the pygmy hog, and the Indian rhinoceros and elephant.

Threats to the Site: This site was listed in Danger between 1992 and 2011, after invasion by militants of the Bodo tribe seeking political redress. Its infrastructure suffered great damage from 1988 to 1993 and political instability between 1990 and 1996 destroyed hundreds of trees and animals, including nearly all the Park’s rhinoceros and 50% of its tigers. The damage was estimated at more than US\$2 million.

Listing by the World Heritage Committee influenced the governments of India and the state of Assam to draw up, with the Park authorities, a \$US2.35 million rehabilitation plan in 1997. Security and relations with local villagers improved but the threat of destruction remained until 2003 when the insurgents surrendered and began to cooperate through the newly formed Bodoland Territorial Council. The Park has since begun to recover and rebuild its infrastructure.




Manas Wildlife Sanctuary


1985: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criteria vii, ix and x.

1992-2011: Listed as a World Heritage site in Danger because of damage and losses caused by civil unrest.


The UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value at the time of inscription:

Brief Synthesis

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the State of Assam in North-East India, a biodiversity hotspot. Covering an area of 39,100 hectares, it spans the Manas river and is bounded to the north by the forests of Bhutan. The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the core zone of the 283,700 hectares Manas Tiger Reserve, and lies alongside the shifting river channels of the Manas River. The site’s scenic beauty includes a range of forested hills, alluvial grasslands and tropical evergreen forests. The site provides critical and viable habitats for rare and endangered species, including tiger, greater one-horned rhino, swamp deer, pygmy hog and Bengal florican. Manas has exceptional importance within the Indian sub-continent’s protected areas, as one of the most significant remaining natural areas in the region, where sizeable populations of a large number of threatened species continue to survive.

Criterion (vii): Manas is recognized not only for its rich biodiversity but also for its spectacular scenery and natural landscape. Manas is located at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. The northern boundary of the park is contiguous to the international border of Bhutan manifested by the imposing Bhutan hills. It spans on either side of the majestic Manas river flanked in the east and the west by reserved forests. The tumultuous river swirling down the rugged mountains in the backdrop of forested hills coupled with the serenity of the alluvial grasslands and tropical evergreen forests offers a unique wilderness experience.

Criterion (ix): The Manas-Beki system is the major river system flowing through the property and joining the Brahmaputra river further downstream. These and other rivers carry an enormous amount of silt and rock debris from the foothills resulting from the heavy rainfall, fragile nature of the rock and steep gradients of the catchments. This leads to the formation of alluvial terraces, comprising deep layers of deposited rock and detritus overlain by sandy loam and a layer of humus represented by bhabar tracts in the north. The terai tract in the south consists of fine alluvial deposits with underlying pans where the water table lies near to the surface. The area contained by the Manas-Beki system gets inundated during the monsoons but flooding does not last long due to the sloping relief. The monsoon and river system form four principal geological habitats: Bhabar savannah, Terai tract, marshlands and riverine tracts. The dynamic ecosystem processes support broadly three types of vegetation: semi-evergreen forests, mixed moist and dry deciduous forests and alluvial grasslands. The dry deciduous forests represent an early stage in succession that is constantly renewed by floods and is replaced by moist decidous forests away from water courses, which in turn are replaced by semi evergreen climax forests. The vegetation of Manas has tremendous regenerating and self-sustaining capabilities due to its high fertility and response to natural grazing by herbivorous animals.

Criterion (x): The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary provides habitat for 22 of India’s most threatened species of mammals. In total, there are nearly 60 mammal species, 42 reptile species, 7 amphibians and 500 species of birds, of which 26 are globally threatened. Noteworthy among these are the elephant, tiger, greater one-horned rhino, clouded leopard, sloth bear, and other species. The wild buffalo population is probably the only pure strain of this species still found in India. It also harbours endemic species like pygmy hog, hispid hare and golden langur as well as the endangered Bengal florican. The range of habitats and vegetation also accounts for high plant diversity that includes 89 tree species, 49 shrubs, 37 undershrubs, 172 herbs and 36 climbers. Fifteen species of orchids, 18 species of fern and 43 species of grasses that provide vital forage to a range of ungulate species also occur here.


The property is a wildlife sanctuary with a focus on maintaining the integrity of the property as a natural area. It forms the core of a larger national park, the boundaries of which are clearly demarcated and supervised. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is buffered on the north by the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan and on the east and west less effectively by the Manas Tiger Reserve. Transboundary cooperation is therefore important to the effectiveness of its protection.

Protection and Management Requirements

The property, which has six national and international designations (i.e. World Heritage Site, National Park, Tiger Reserve (core), Biosphere Reserve (national), Elephant Reserve (core) and Important Bird Area) has the highest legal protection and strong legislative framework under the provisions of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Indian Forest Act, 1927/Assam Forest Regulation 1891. The property benefits from government support at both national and regional levels as well as involvement of national and international conservation organisations.

The property is managed under the administration of the Assam Forest Department / Bodoland Territorial Council. A comprehensive and approved Management Plan is an essential requirement, together with effective patrolling and enforcement capacity to deal with the threats of encroachment, grazing and poaching. The provision of adequate infrastructure, skilled personnel and monitoring arrangements for the property are all essential requirements. Scientific research and monitoring for habitat and invasive species management and recovery of wildlife populations is a particular imperative for management to ascertain and maintain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The property is home to 400 varieties of wild rice, also making the management of its biodiversity values of high importance to food security.

Provision of effective tourism facilities, visitor information and interpretation is also a priority for the park management. A sustainable financing mechanism needs to be ensured to provide the necessary financial resources for the long term management of the property. The surrounding buffer zones are managed on a multiple use basis, and a balance is required between conservation and resource extraction in the management of these areas. Involvement of local communities who live and make use of the areas adjacent to the reserve in protection efforts for the property is essential, and a key management objective is to enhance their engagement and awareness in the interest of the preservation of the property. There is potential to extend the property to coincide with the boundaries of the national park of which it forms the core. The establishment of a transboundary world heritage property across the Indian and Bhutanese Manas Tiger Conservation Landscape would enable greater coordination and cooperation in the management of habitat and wildlife populations and would strengthen protection as well.


IV Habitat & Species Management Area


Burma Monsoon Forest (4.09.01)


The Park lies on the border with Bhutan, 41 km north of Barpeta Road township and 175 km northwest of Guwahati, the regional capital. It spans the Manas River and is bounded on the north by the Royal Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan, on the south by the populous region of North Kamrup and on both east and west by forest reserves: 26° 30' to 27° 00'N by 90° 50' to 92° 00'E.


1907: Part of the area which was previously preserved as royal hunting grounds was classified as North Kamrup Forest Reserve; more land was added in 1927;

1928: Manas (previously North Kamrup) declared a Sanctuary for rhinoceros (36,000 ha);

1955: Reserve enlarged to 39,100 ha;

1971: The government set up an 890 ha seed farm in the Sanctuary to counter local encroachment pressures;

1973: Manas Reserve established as the core of the 283,712 ha Manas Tiger Reserve: Project Tiger set up to preserve the Indian tiger population;

1988: The contiguous Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan established;

1989: Declared a core zone of the newly formed national Manas Biosphere Reserve (283,700 ha);

1990: The Sanctuary was upgraded to a National Park and enlarged to 52,000 ha by the inclusion of the former Panbari, Koklabari and Kahitama Forest Reserves (Oliver, 1993);

1992+: Listed as endangered because of habitat destruction and heavy wildlife loss caused by Bodo insurgent groups protesting in-migration from other states and loss of their access to forest resources;

2001: The Park declared the core zone of the Buxa-Manas Elephant Reserve (283,700 ha);

2003: The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) recognised, allowing the Bodo people some autonomy. The Park included within the Chirang Ripu Elephant Reserve;

2011: Site removed from Endangered status.


State, in the districts of Barpeta and Kokrajhar. Administered by the Assam State Forest Department.


50,000 ha. It is contiguous with Royal Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Bhutan (102,300 ha).


Ranges from 61m to 110m (WPSI, 2002).


The Park, which is of great physical beauty, lies on a wide low-lying alluvial terrace below the foothills of the outer Himalaya. The Manas River flows through the west of the Park, where it splits into two separate rivers, the Beki and Bholkaduba, to join the River Brahmaputra some 64 km further south. These and five small rivers running through the Reserve carry enormous amounts of silt and rock from the foothills as a result of heavy rainfall, steep gradients and friable bedrock upstream. Over the limestone and sandstone bedrock, boulders and gravels of the Bhabar savanna area to the north, flood waters have formed shifting channels and swamps and a soil of porous alluvial river terraces of coarse detritus under layers of sandy loam and humus where the water table is very low. The Terai grasslands in the south consist of deep deposits of fine alluvium with underlying pans where the water table lies very near the surface, making it potentially useful farmland. The Manas basin in the west of the Park is frequently flooded during the monsoon but never for very long due to the sloping relief. Drowning of wildlife is negligible as animals are able to take refuge on islands of high ground (Deb Roy, 1991).


The climate is warm and humid with up to 76% relative humidity. It rains from mid-March to October with most rain falling during the monsoon months from mid-May to September, flooding the western half of the Reserve. The mean annual rainfall is 3,330mm. November to February is relatively dry when the smaller rivers dry up and large rivers dwindle (Deb Roy, 1991). The mean maximum summer temperature is 37°C and the mean minimum winter temperature is 5°C (WPSI, 2002).


Manas lies on the border between the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical realms which gives it great natural diversity. There are three main types of vegetation: sub-Himalayan alluvial semi-evergreen forest, east Himalayan mixed moist and dry deciduous forests, the commoner type, and grasslands. Much of the riverine dry deciduous forest is an early successional stage, being constantly renewed by floods. Away from water courses it is replaced by moist deciduous forest, which is succeeded by semi-evergreen climax forest in the northern part of the Park. Its common trees include Aphanamixis polystachya, Anthocephalus chinensis, Syzygium cumini, S. formosum, S. oblatum, Bauhinia purpurea, Mallotus philippensis, Cinnamomum tamala, Actinodaphne obvata; Tropical moist and dry deciduous forests are characterised by Bombax ceiba, Sterculia villosa, Dillenia indica, D. pentagyna, Careya arborea, Lagerstroemia parviflora, L.speciosa, Terminalia bellirica, T. chebula, Trewia polycarpa, Gmelina arborea, Oroxylum indicum and Bridelia spp. Much of the most valuable timber has been harvested.

Two types of alluvial grasslands cover almost 45% of the Park: low alluvial savanna woodland and semi-evergreen alluvial grassland. These are created and maintained by burning, and on a smaller scale, by elephants. The riparian grasslands are the best tiger habitat in India, and also well suited to the unique wild buffalo herds, gaur and barasingha, elephants and waterbirds. There are 43 different grass species, Imperata cylindrica, Saccharum naranga, Phragmites karka and Arundo donax predominating (Menon, 1995). There is also a variety of tree and shrub species such as Dillenia pentagyna which dominates the swamp forest, silk cotton Bombax ceiba a dominant of the savanna woodland, andPhyllanthus emblica, and shrub species ofClerodendrum, Leea, Grewia, Premna, Mussaenda, Sonchus, Osbekia and Blumera. There is a wide variety of aquatic flora along river banks and in the numerous pools (Jain & Sastry, 1983). Some 374 species of dicotyledons, including 89 trees, 139 species of monocotyledons including 43 species of grass, and 15 species of orchid have been identified (Project Tiger, 2001). Invasion by Mikena cordata vines and Eupatorium odorata is a problem.


The Park contains the country’s highest numbers of endangered and endemic species: 22 of India's Schedule I mammals and at least 33 of its animals listed as nationally threatened (* below), by far the greatest number of any protected area in the country. 55 mammals, 50 reptiles and three amphibians have been recorded, several species being endemic (Project Tiger, 2001). Many are typical of south-east Asian rain forest and have their westernmost distribution here, while other species are at the easternmost point of their range. It had the country’s largest concentration of elephants, the second largest population of tigers and the third largest population of rhinoceros before the tribal incursions when the populations of all the protected species which had been gradually increasing, fell back (Deb Roy, 1992).

The most notable threatened species were the indicator species the *tigerPanthera tigris(EN), numbering 70 in 2000, down from 123 in 1984, *Indian elephant Elephas maximus (EN): 658 animals in 2005 in the greater Chirang Ripu Elephant Reserve, of which Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is the main elephant habitat, compared to 567 animals in 2002 for Manas Wildlife Sanctuary alone (UNESCO, 2006) and *Indian rhinocerosRhinoceros unicornis(VU), 80 in 1990, 39 in 1997 (Project Tiger, 2001) and perhaps 6 in 2006 (UNESCO,2006). Other mammals include Indian giant squirrelRatufa indica, *particolored flying squirrel Hylopetes alboniger, *Indian pangolinManis crassicaudata,*hispid hareCaprolagus hispidus(EN), *golden leaf monkey Trachypithecus geei (EN), rare, recently discovered and endemic to Manas and to adjoining Bhutan which numbered only 305 in 1980, *capped langurT. pileatus(VU), *western hoolock gibbon Hoolock hoolock (EN), Asiatic wild dog Cuon alpinus (EN), *sloth bearMelursus ursinus (VU), Himalayan black bearUrsus thibetanus(VU), *greater slow loris Nycticebus coucang (VU), *binturong (bearcat)Arctictis binturong(VU), *clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa (VU), *leopardP. pardus, *Asiatic golden cat Pardofelis temminckii, *marbled catP. marmorata(VU), *fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus (EN) *leopard catP. bengalensis,), *South Asian river dolphin Platanista gangetica (EN), *pygmy hogPorcula salvanius(CR), rediscovered in 1964 in Manas, *swamp deer or barasingha Rucervus duvaucelii (VU), with approximately 450 individuals (Roy,1992), sambar or spotted deer Rusa unicolor (VU), hog deer Axis porcinus (EN), chital or Indian spotted deer A. axis, northern barking deer Muntiacus vaginalis, *gaur or Indian bisonBos gaurus(VU) and Indian water buffaloBubalus arnee (EN), probably the only pure strain of this species in India.

The Park lies within one of the world’s Endemic Bird Areas (Stattersfield et al., 1998). Including migrants, over 450 species of birds have been recorded and about 350 breed in the area, 16 being endemic (Deb Roy, 1991) including the threatened *Bengal floricanHoubaropsis bengalensis(CR), a type of bustard, *great hornbill Buceros bicornis and *wreathed hornbillAceros undulatusamong other hornbill species. The *Bengal floricans of the National Park were estimated at 80 birds with 24 male territories in the Park in 1988, a fifth of the world population (Narayan et al.,1989). Pied harrier Circus melanoleucos nested in 1988-9, the first confirmed record for India (Narayan et al., 1989). Recent records of threatened species include white-rumped and slender-billed vultures Gyps bengalensis (CR) and Gyps tenuirostris (CR), greater spotted eagle Aquila clanga (VU), lesser kestrel Falco naumanni (VU), rufous-necked hornbill Aceros nipalensis (VU), white-throated bushchat Saxicola insignis (VU), marsh, Jerdon’s and slender-billed babblers Pellorneum palustre (VU), Chrysomma altirostre (VU), and Turdoides longirostris (VU), blackbreasted parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris (VU), grey-crowned prinia Prinia cinereocapilla (VU), bristled grassbird Chaetornis striatus (VU), and yellow weaver Ploceus megarhynchus (VU). Uncommon waterfowl species include *spotbilled pelicanPelecanus philippinensis, *greater adjutant stork Leptoptilos dubius (EN), *lesser adjutant storkL. javanicus(VU), Baer’s pochardAythya baeri(EN) and swamp francolinFrancolinus gularis (VU) (Scott, 1989; BirdLife International, 2004).

50 reptile species include the *gharialGavialis gangeticus(CR), possibly introduced from Bhutan in the Kosi River or from a captive breeding program, eleven species of snake including vine snakeAhaetulla nasutas, banded flying snakeChrysopelea peliasAssam trinket snakeElaphe frenata,king cobraOphiophagus hannah(VU), *Indian rock python Python molurus, and banded krait Bungarus fasciatus; also *yellow and *common monitor lizards Varanus flavescens and V. salvator, and two rare turtles: *Assam roofed turtlePangshura sylhetensis(EN), lost until 1988, and Indian black turtleMelanochelys trijuga(Rahmaniet al., 1989).


Lying at the confluence of the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical realms Manas has great natural diversity as well as spectacular scenery. Its varied habitats support 22 scheduled species and it is the richest in species of all Indian wildlife areas. It is the core of an extensive tiger reserve that protects an important migratory corridor for elephants and other wildlife along the West Bengal - Arunachal Pradesh - Bhutan borders. Its wetlands are of international importance. It is also the single most important site for the survival of golden langur, pygmy hog and hispid hare. It lies within Conservation International hotspot and is one of the world’s Endemic Bird Areas.


Manas takes its name from the Goddess Manasa. The forests of the Reserve were traditionally inhabited and their resources used mainly by Bodo and Adhivasi tribesmen, though the area was also preserved as royal hunting grounds for two royal families. There are no archaeological remains (Project Tiger, 2001).


Some 57 villages with 28,800 inhabitants live on the fringe of the National Park, predominantly Bodo tribal people (Project Tiger, 2001). They come under the control of the District Revenue Authorities. Surrounding forests, originally tribal lands used for grazing and tree products, come under the Assam Forest Department and have been logged by the timber and paper industries for a pittance, after which, immigrant farmers illegally purchased the cleared land. This denial of access so alienated the tribal people that they preferred to see the jungle razed than let outsiders take it. Their growing numbers forced villagers into using the protected forests which caused continued conflict with the National Park. Driven by feelings of deprivation and neglect, insurgent groups became the greatest threat to the Park and a destructive insurgency raged from 1988 to 2003. That year the Bodo laid down their arms, the Bodoland Territorial Council, was formed and was accorded a measure of autonomy. The locals began to rebuild the Park as their own and even to fund it when the State did not (Debonnet & Lethier, 2008).


Some 5,000 local sightseers used to visit the Sanctuary during the winter holidays. They disturbed the wildlife and may have to be accommodated nearer the edge of the Park (Deb Roy, 1991). In 1984 32,860 visited the site, but owing to the Bodo agitation in Assam, the Park was closed between 1989 and 1995. In 1996 there were some 2,770 visitors (Project Tiger, 2001). Danger from the insurgents then became so great that the Park was again closed. By 2001, foreign visitors still needed a permit to enter the Park and did so at their own risk, despite which, in 2002 3,219 visitors visited, although no foreigners (UNESCO, 2003). In 2003 when tourism began to revive there were 90 foreign visitors. A forest bungalow at Mothanguri, in the north of the Park, has dormitory accommodation for 48 persons. A number of rest houses and camp sites were also available. The Tourist Department of Assam conducted deep safari tours, especially in the Mothanguri-Bansbari area, including elephant rides and boat trips down the river. The high potential for eco-tourism is being realised and local people and groups are becoming involved in this, building unauthorised roads and structures.


The vegetation has been surveyed by the Botanical Survey of India (Jain & Hajra, 1975). Tiger and elephant censuses are regularly undertaken by Project Tiger. The status of the Bengal florican was investigated in May 1984 (Ali et al., 1985). In 1993, WWF initiated a project to identify the essential needs of the fringe villagers to provide alternatives to their dependence on the Park (WWF, 1993). There is regular monitoring of the loss by area of timber, resources and species, conducted by the University of Guwahati, the Assam Remote Sensing Applications Centre, the Wildlife Institute of Dehra Dun and NGOs. Since 2003 two rough surveys of the major wildlife populations were made (Mathur et al., 2007) and in 2010 several NGOs (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Aaranyak, WWF-INDIA and others) had begun re-surveying the fauna (UNESCO, 2010)


The Assam Forest Department is responsible for the administration of the National Park under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Its management was a low priority until the 1960s, but its inaccessibility protected it except for marginal encroachments and livestock grazing by villagers which were eliminated during that decade, at the cost of the lasting resentment of the local people. The Park is essentially a wilderness, forming the core of the Tiger Reserve which is classified as reserve forest. The last legal forestry in the core area occurred in 1964. Hunting officially ceased when the area was established as a Sanctuary, but before the Bodo invasion, traditional hunting did not have noticeable effects on the wildlife. Much roadstone was extracted from the area during the construction of the National Highway in 1963-1964 but no further exploitation of any kind is now allowed. Plantations were created along the southern border as a buffer against agricultural encroachment but this stopped in 1977. The restrictions do not apply to the surrounding buffer zone of the Tiger Reserve, which is managed on a multiple-use basis. There, residents are allowed to selectively remove timber, collect firewood, cultivate land, graze their domestic livestock and benefit from inoculation of their cattle to prevent transmittal of diseases to the wildlife (Deb Roy, 1992).

More intensive management was begun in the 1960s. Careful controlled burning in autumn is the most important management tool to maintain the different habitats, especially the grassland. It is both a traditional practice and done to prevent devastation by intense wildfires (Deb Roy, 1991). Management has always been oriented towards the larger mammals, especially the tiger. The Project Tiger scheme has provided staff accommodation, marked boundaries, developed roads and a wireless network to improve anti-poaching operations. A rhinoceros action plan was prepared under the Biodiversity Alliance co-ordinated by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and WWF-India (WWF, 1996). Following successful captive breeding of gharial, there were also plans to restock channels in the area. A management plan to include social welfare measures such as the provision of water, medical and veterinary care and farming advice was drawn up (WWF/IUCN, 1990). A three year rehabilitation program was prepared by the Ministry for Environment and Forests, the State Forest Department of Assam and the Manas Directorate which aimed to restore the infrastructure, and set up habitat improvement programs and eco-development schemes for surrounding villages (Project Tiger, 2001; UNESCO, 1997). However, from 1988 to 2003 the Park was occupied by Bodo separatist groups protesting major in-migration from other states which made them a minority in their own homeland and campaigning for restoration of their right to use forest lands and for tribal autonomy. This resulted in widespread destruction, the withdrawal of staff and a major loss of larger animals. However, the conflict had little physical impact on the conservation value of the site except at its southwestern end (Deb Roy, 1992).

By 2002 however, staff were slowly reoccupying guard posts and re-establishing control. By mid 2002, a management plan was finalised (in need of revision by 2008) which set out an agenda for management-oriented research, a community outreach strategy, conservation and awareness programs, tourist activities and improvements in infrastructure (IUCN, 2002). Relations with local villagers improved. Volunteer groups from the local NGOs Green Manas and Manas Bandhu slowly began to persuade local militants to help conserve not destroy the Park (PA Update, 2001). Camps and guard posts were rebuilt, allowing better management. The government included the reserve in Project Elephant and was facilitating committees on participatory planning and economic development projects (UNESCO, 2002). Relations with Bhutan were very good despite the scale of poaching and insurgency. A WHC/IUCN mission visiting the site in early 2002 promoted the nomination of Bhutan’s Royal Manas Wildlife Sanctuary as a future transboundary World Heritage site which would improve protection over the whole Manas ecosystem. This was revived by the 2008 WHC/IUCN Mission with renewed interest from Bhutan, Assam’s Chief Wildlife warden, the Indian and Bhutan offices of WWF and the UNESCO office in New Delhi, and the Indian government itself Debonnet & Lethier, 2008).

In 2003, when their insurgent bases in Bhutan just across the border became usable, the Bodo insurgents agreed a pact with the government, handed in their arms and were granted a degree of autonomy in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Thereafter, considering the Park their own territory, they were persuaded to protect it against intruders and to convince neighboring villagers to take the same attitude. The Park was understaffed and underfunded, with inadequate equipment and infrastructure no comprehensive conservation and interpretive strategy towards local communities. But as a result of the tribes’ cooperation, poaching declined, tourism gradually restarted and it began to be possible to rebuild the Park's infrastructure (UNESCO, 2006). By 2005, it was possible to initiate ecotourism and the local people were becoming involved in rebuilding the Park’s infrastructure (UNESCO, 2005). In 2006 the State Government released funding. New Park roads, bridges, buildings and a wireless system were built and five field stations had been manned and armed. It also initiated the Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 in collaboration with the International Rhino Foundation, WWF-India, the US Fish & Wildlife Service and others. This aims at a major population and range expansion program for rhinos in Assam, relocating the animals especially to Manas. Reintroduction started in 2006 with one female from Kaziranga National Park (UNESCO, 2006).

That year, local Bodo communities and the Territorial Council endorsed IRV 2020 and committed their full support. Funds were released to WWF-India to improve the infrastructure in Manas for this purpose. By 2008 three international foundations, four national and six local NGOs were providing support to the property. The 2008 WHC/IUCN mission was very impressed by the devotion of the local people to the rehabilitation of the Park and their belief in the alternative livelihoods it could provide, in particular its potential for tourism. By 2008 31 Park camps had been rebuilt and 7 more for the rhino reintroduction program were due for completion, 130 km of trails and 100 km of trails plus bridges had also been reopened. Former poachers were even collaborating with the revival. It remained urgently necessary to conduct a baseline survey on the recovery of wildlife populations and set up a full monitoring system for flagship species. It was also essential to resolve the problem of releasing funds held back by the state (Debonnet & Lethier, 2008). By 2008 funds were at last were available for improvement of park management, building staff capacity, increasing local awareness, involvement and sustainable development (UNESCO, 2010)


The Indian National Forest Policy Act of 1952 held the poor responsible for deforestation and stated that national forests should be used to produce timber for industry and commerce, not for subsistence by the local people, on the ground that where land is owned rather than held in common, it is usually treated with care (Lurie 1991). The area was therefore made a Sanctuary without provision of alternative resources for the local people who continually encroached on it as though it was still open to them. The Tiger Reserve as a whole remains intact, although the buffer zone has suffered many encroachments, especially between Sankosh in the far west and the Manas river, which have led to haphazard fragmentation of the forest. About 1,500 ha in the Panbari Reserve Forests (the western core zone of the Park) have been illegally settled since 1973. There is no buffer to the south, and village communities on the edge collect grasses, fuel, wood, fodder, timber and graze their livestock in the Park. Villagers believe that these uses are theirs by right, which have been denied to them since the designation of the Tiger Reserve in 1973 (WWF, 1993).

Uncontrolled dry season burning and unsustainable levels of hunting, organised poaching and illegal extraction of timber and firewood and encroachments occur in the buffer zone, and the tigers are persecuted. Against this must be set the frequent damage to the villagers’ animals, crops and houses by tigers, elephants, wild boar and deer from the Park. During 1979-83 for example, there were 11 deaths by a man-eating tiger for which no compensation was paid. Crop-raids by elephant and hog-deer are increasingly common, which leads to continued ill-feeling amongst local people (Deb Roy, 1991). In 1984 the government tried to close Kokla Bari Seed Farm, set up in the core Park grasslands in 1971, but was strongly opposed by plains tribes, such as the Borokacharis, who are employed there (Choudhury, 1986). In the 1990s two dams were proposed in the upper reaches of the Manas and Sankosh rivers which might severely impact the integrity of the Manas ecosystem. Serious flooding in 2003 which washed away part of the Park’s riverside land and equipment was attributed to works on the Manas river dam upstream in Bhutan (WildLife Trust of India, 2004).

Between 1988 and 2003, various factions of the Bodo people, who form about one-third of Assam's population, intermittently invaded the park. In February 1988 both Reserve and Park were violently occupied by separatist members of the local All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), campaigning for autonomy for its people and for restoration of their right to use forest lands (Jackson, 1989). They were later joined by Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). Arson, looting, destruction of bridges and buildings and the murder of eight wildlife guards by the terrorists occurred, in the absence of the police. The park was closed to the public between 1989 and 1996. This resulted in the forced evacuation of Sanctuary staff, leaving the Park open to professional poachers, timber smugglers and fringe villagers. 21 of the 44 ranger posts were destroyed and 30 were abandoned. As a result, hundreds of animals, especially rhinoceros, but including elephant, tiger and valuable prey species of deer were killed (Hussain, 1989; Rahmani et al., 1989). Consequently, in 1992, the site was placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger. The Park was closed to the public between 1989 and 1996 and the disturbances lasted intermittently from 1988 to 2003, recurring in 2001 and 2002 as militants of the ULFA and NDFB fled from refuges in Bhutan and (PA Update, 2001; UNESCO, 2002).

The insurgents had little impact on the conservation value of the site which was protected by its inaccessibility, dense cover and poor visibility, except at its southwestern end (Deb Roy, 1992). However, damage totalling over US\$2 million to the infrastructure, the murder over ten years of 15 guards and the destruction of guard posts in twelve areas of the Park, prevented the reestablishment of normal protection and undermined management and staff morale. The infrastructure long remained poor and landmines were set along the Bhutan border by the insurgents. The Assam Forest Protection Force was available to keep order, but until a pact in 2003, militants still crossed the area, especially in the Eastern and Western ranges (Milne, 1997; Project Tiger, 2001), and only the central Bansbari Range section of the Park was considered safe to patrol (IUCN, 2002). However, a ten-year Master Plan under the auspices of the Project Tiger Directorate of the Ministry of the Environment was drawn up (Gupta, 2005).

Poaching, always a problem, was most serious during the 1990s. The surrounding villagers, being very poor, depend on natural resources for their livelihood which they perceive the Park and Reserve to be denying them. They were therefore hostile. But the most serious poaching was carried out by large well-financed well-armed professional gangs, partly backed by traders in endangered species (Narayan, 1990). As a result, hundreds of animals including rhinoceros, elephant, tiger and valuable prey species of deer were killed (Hussain, 1989; Rahmani et al., 1989). There is a rich market for horns so the local rhinoceros population was nearly extinguished by poachers: numbers dropped from approximately 80 in 1990 (Roy, 1991) to only 6 in 2002 (IUCN, 2002). Partly to feed the market in tiger parts the tiger population fell from 123 in 1984 to 70 in 2000. 20 elephants had been killed by 1997 and deer are still frequently taken for village feasts (Project Tiger, 2001). Hundreds of trees were felled and encroachment was continuous, especially in the Panbari Forest, where the habitats of endangered species such as golden langur, hispid hare and pygmy hog, were put at risk. Illegal grass-cutting for fodder and grazing also occurred. Despite the high level of crime, protection of the Park by the state and central governments was delayed by lack of available trained and experienced manpower, and by the political difficulty of releasing funds granted for this use. To improve relations with villagers, funding intended for Park use was instead spent on schemes to benefit them, and on infrastructure, leaving the Park dependent on other sources of funding (UNESCO, 2000).


Administration of the Tiger Reserve is the responsibility of the field director of Project Tiger, under the Forest Department. In 1986 there were 4 forest rangers, 2 deputy rangers, 29 foresters, 12 head game watchers, some 49 forest guards, 46 game watchers and 104 other staff. In 2000, 158 of 469 staff posts (294 being forest guard posts) were unfilled and the staff’s equipment, experience and budget remained inadequate (Project Tiger, 2001; IUCN, 2001). UNESCO did provide 3 vehicles and boats.

In 2008, there was a permanent staff of 252 with 70 full time casual staff as well as 50 young volunteers recruited under the Indian Rhino Vision Program. The BTC funded 90 full-time armed and uniformed volunteers. 50 guards and 11 rangers from the Forest Protection Force also assisted. However, 123 of the 445 established positions remained vacant through lack of funding, some of which could be filled by the most promising volunteers (Debonnet & Lethier, 2008).


In 1989-1990 Rs 2,545,000 (US\$195,770) were allocated by the Governments of India and Assam for biodiversity and rhino conservation, but much was said to have been used for other purposes. In 1995 less than two thirds of the annual budget of US\$272,850 had been paid by 1996 and was inadequate. In 1997 the World Heritage Fund granted US\$75,000 for vehicles, boats and equipment, and in 1998, US\$90,000 for ranger posts and staff housing (UNESCO, 1988). Because of the insecurity of the site, this last was used instead on veterinary and health camps and repairs to irrigation systems to improve relations with villagers (UNESCO, 2000). In 1997-1998 the Indian government granted US\$500,000 to strengthen conservation in the Reserve (UNESCO, 1999).

In 2005-6 WHF provided US\$165,000 for purchase of equipment, rehabilitation of infrastructure and community activities and US\$50,000 was released to WWF-India to improve the infrastructure in Manas for the IRV program. In late 2005, the State Government via Project Tiger released a first installment of Rs.8 million (US\$202,500) to the National Park out of a budget for the year of Rs.19.8 million approved for the Park (UNESCO,2006). Since then however, the State has not released the funds for the Park sanctioned by the central government. By 2008 Rs312,900 (\~US\$7,900) had been received from the Project Elephant budget, but Rs9,300,000 (\~US\$335,000) sanctioned for the Project Tiger budget year was still to be released. The Park has had to rely on funding from the Bodoland Territorial Council which provided Rs4,504,500 (US\$114,000) from its own budget to rehabilitate the infrastructure such as anti-poaching camps, bamboo bridges and patrol tracks, to buy vehicles and feed and pay volunteers. However, by 2008 the Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and Environment on behalf of the UNESCO India Biodiversity Program, was channelling funds from the UN Foundation, Ford Foundation and Suri Sehgal Foundation. to improve the park’s management, build staff capacity, increase local awareness and involvement and sustainable development


The Field Director, Project Tiger, PO Barpeta Road, 781 315, Barpeta District, Assam, India.


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1985. Updated 7-1988, 3-1990, 8-1995, 7-1997, 7-2002, 10-2005, 8-2008, 8-2010, June 2011.