Royal Manas National Park
Royal Manas National Park is a former royal hunting reserve, now a U.N. World Heritage Site offering sanctuary to more significant faunal species than anyplace else in Bhutan.
Rare, silky, long-tailed golden leaf langur monkeys—a fluffy orange-gold—are found only here, feeding not only on leaves but flowers, buds, shoots, seeds, and salty mineral-rich earth, in rolling forested hill country where, if unwary, they become food themselves for arboreal clouded leopards.
Formidable wild water buffalo with touchy, aggressive dispositions forage on stream-laced savannahs with Indian elephants, the two giving one another wide berths.
Tigers prey on spotted hogs and young sambar deer and, if they can find them, rare hispid hares.
At least 350 bird species include black, Asiatic, and lesser adjutant storks, ibisbills, watercocks, great stone-curlews, mountain hawk-eagles, and Indian rollers, and the park is an important waterfowl staging area for ruddy shelducks and green-winged teal.
Orchids of hundreds of species find support on rare agar trees whose wood is prized for incense and medicine.
Abutting Royal Manas’ some 395 square miles (1,023 km2) of remote, varied, well-watered habitat are: BLACK MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (see below) to the north; on the south, India’s MANAS WILDLIFE RESERVE (see p.219), with 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) protecting more endangered species than any other Indian reserve. Together the three represent a huge transborder area covering almost 2,000 square miles (5,000 km2) of immense importance for plants and animals threatened with extinction elsewhere in the Himalayas, including a large tiger population.
The country’s first long-range park management has been started by the Forest Services Division (FSD) working with WWF as a hoped-for model for reserves elsewhere, with guard posts, staff quarters, patrol trails, watch tower, water holes, and field equipment including boats and vehicles, with jobs for local residents.
There is a guest house at park headquarters, although at least until recently, it has been unavailable due to Assamese ethnic Bodo tribal insurgency in the area. Additional park access has been only by lengthy detour through India for which Restricted Area Permits are required (see Manas Wildlife Reserve, India). Construction has begun on a direct-access road between Gelephu and headquarters. Simple village guesthouses are at Kanamakra, Rabang, and Panbang.
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