Site description (2004 baseline):
AVIFAUNA: Around 310 bird species have been reported from this IBA (Narayan et al. 1989, Ali et al. 1985). Several uncommon species, including the Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus and Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis can be seen here. Manas has perhaps, the largest known population of the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis where Narayan, (1992) estimated about 80 birds in 1989-90. It is an important area for most of the tall wet grassland species, such as Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis, Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre, Slender-billed Babbler Turdoides longirostris, Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre, Bristled Grass-warbler Chaetornis striatus and many others. Hodgson’s Bushchat Saxicola insignis, another tall grassland species is present in Manas during winter. Manas is one of the few places where the Vulnerable Finn’s Baya Ploceus megarhynchus is found nesting. According to the biome classification of BirdLife International (undated), Manas mainly lies in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (Biome-12) where 13 species are considered as biome represented. Except for Collared Myna Acridotheres albocinctus that anyway is restricted to Manipur and a small portion of adjoining Assam, all the remaining 12 species are found in Manas. Presence of such a high percentage of biome-restricted birds proves the habitat is still intact and in pristine condition. Based on the excellent bird life and significant populations of some globally threatened species, Manas Tiger Reserve is considered as one of the Outstanding IBAs of India (BirdLife International 2003).
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Manas harbours some of the richest mammalian diversity in India.
More than 60 mammals have been identified, including 22 listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 (Rahmani, et al. 1992). Only the most endangered are mentioned here. This Park is the only known site for the globally threatened Pygmy Hog Sus salvanius.
A captive breeding and reintroduction programme is on going (G. Narayan, pers. comm. 2001). Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus is another endangered species doing well in Manas. Its pellets indicate its presence in all suitable grasslands. Some of the pure population of Wild Buffalo Bubalus arnee (= bubalis) is found in Manas. In all other areas interbreeding with domestic buffalos is a major problem. To the west of Manas river, in Bhutan, Golden Langur Trachypithecus geei is found.
Manas is also known for its large herds of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus and Hog Deer Axis porcinus. Before the devastation brought about by insurgency, it was not uncommon to see congregations of up to 200 Hog Deer. In deeper jungle, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa is found, but difficult to see due to its nocturnal habit and shy nature. There is a small population of Swamp Deer Cervus duvaucelii. Earlier, their habitat was shared by the Indian Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis but sadly poachers killed most of these animals. Tiger Panthera tigris is still present, although in smaller numbers.
Reptiles are among the lesser-known animals of Manas. In addition to the Yellow Monitor Lizard Varanus flavescens and the King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, which belong to the endangered category, Manas also harbours a variety of turtles and terrapins.
The Assam Roof Turtle Kachuga sylhetensis was recently found (Sharma 1988), which is a range extension for this extremely rare species. Other rare turtles are the Eastern Hill Terrapin Melanochelys tricarinata and the Indian Sawback or Roofed Terrapin Kachuga tecta.
Since 1989, this world Heritage Site has suffered significantly due to insurgency-related problems (Rahmani et al. 1989; Choudhury 1989). Between 1989 and 1992, most of the interior camps and bridges were burnt down and Rhinoceros and Swamp Deer population almost wiped out. With the breakdown of administration, professional poachers and timber smugglers took full advantage of the situation. While the insurgents themselves were not always involved, the situation worsened because of the law and order problem created by them. It was only around 1995- 96 that the situation improved slightly, but it is yet to reach the pre-1989 level. There has been some encroachment by local villagers and graziers. Burning in the dry season, hunting and extraction of timber and firewood are practiced at a non-sustainable level in the buffer zone. The Park, once extremely popular with tourists, is now visited by a small number of tourists each year.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Manas National Park. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/manas-national-park-iba-india on 03/10/2023.