Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, with over 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) of breathtaking scenery and well-watered habitat has more than 40 rare and endangered species, more than anyplace else in India. Tigers are here along with rare golden langur monkeys, marbled and golden cats, and clouded leopards. Stunning birds include rare Bengal floricans, handsomest of the tall grassland bustards with glossy midnight-blue heads and underparts and flashing white wings.
Tiny pygmy hogs—adults no more than 10 inches (25 cm) high at the shoulder—and hispid hares, both once thought extinct, are here, with massive one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, and a few Assam roof turtles. For many like the long-horned wild Asiatic buffalo, Manas is probably their last stand.
Reptiles include brilliantly patterned ornate flying snakes, black and yellow with reddish rosettes, which cannot fly but seem to, coiling and straightening out with explosive speed, ribs spread and bellies concave as they sail through the air between treetops. Huge monitor lizards stalk through jungle trails and up trees. King cobras, world’s largest venomous snakes, up to 18 feet (5+ m) long, feed mostly on other snakes and small mammals, avoided by all. More than 450 bird species range from great Indian hornbills and stately kalij pheasants to Pallas’ fisheagles and crested serpent eagles. Bright scarlet minivets flit about the canopy.
Wet alluvial grasslands and tropical mixed semievergreen and deciduous woodlands supply ecological niches as well for butterflies and others, including millions of invertebrates on which the whole food chain depends.
This U.N. World Heritage Site, one of the first places protected under Project Tiger, is under threat from several sides. Bodo tribal militants have terrorized and killed park rangers as well as many of the rare species which park staffs, with limited facilities and equipment, work to protect. Land use pressure from human settlement, cattle grazing, and agricultural encroachment, jeopardizes habitat. Ill-feeling arises from human/wildlife conflict involving tigers, elephants, buffalo, and others despite compensatory payment. Plans for a dam that would damage both this and protected land in neighboring Bhutan have been shelved but perhaps not permanently.
Manas’ northern boundary adjoins lush, undisturbed ROYAL MANAS (see p.185) and BLACK MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARKS in Bhutan (see p.186), protecting altogether almost 2,000 square miles (5,000 km2) of contiguous forest habitat. The Bhutan portion is remote, with few visitor facilities, and at least until recently, was accessible from the India side only.
Bodo activity has sometimes closed the park—best check recent situation. Best times are January–March. Accommodations include tourist lodge and forest bungalow at Mothanguri, also rest houses and campsites. The Assam Forest Department arranges river trips and elephantback tours, also has information on access to adjoining Bhutan reserves. Nearest rail is at Mothangiri, 25 miles (41 km) away; nearest airport at Gawahati (Gauhati), 116 miles (186 km).
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