Great Manas Recovery Project

Wildlife Trust of India’s The Greater Manas Conservation Project aims on bringing back past glory of Manas landscape by restoring the ecological functionality of the landscape through implementing multifaceted actions under the umbrella of other big ideas of WTI, namely Wild Rescue, Wild Aid, Enforcement and Law, Species Recovery and Conflict Mitigation.

The Manas Landscape lies at the confluence of three bio-geographic realms – lower Gangetic plain, Central Himalayas and Brahmaputra valley. Manas has five major forest types, the Sub-Himalayan High Alluvial Semi-evergreen Forest, Eastern Bhabhar type Forest, Moist Mixed Deciduous Forest, Assam Valley Semi-evergreen Forest and the Eastern Wet Alluvial Grassland. This unique habitat supports at least 61 species of mammals, 477 species of birds, 42 species of reptiles and over 200 species of butterflies (UNESCO IUCN 2011). Manas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, declared in 1985 under the criteria inscribed in (VII), (IX) and (X), which has “outstanding universal value”.

The Manas landscape has five conservation recognitions; it is a Tiger Reserve, a National Park, an Elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve, other than the World Heritage Site Two decades of civil and political unrest since early 1988 due to agitation by the ethnic Bodo community for a separate “Bodoland” resulted in extensive damage to wildlife and property of the landscape. However, peace and normalcy prevailed after the formation of the “Bodoland Territorial Council” in 2003 with a tripartite agreement among Bodoland People’s Front, Government of Assam and Government of India for creation of a territorial council.

The “Bodoland Accord” brought scope for national, international and local organizations and local communities living in the fringe of Manas to get together and work towards restoring the past glory of Manas. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and its international partner, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in partnership with Assam Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council and local community-based organizations started the Greater Manas Conservation Project (GMCP) in 2006 with the same objective.

The rhino monitoring team of Greater Manas Recovery Project locating the released rehabilitated rhinos in the wilderness near Sidhajhar under Bansbari Forest Range on 28th December 2019.

The GMCP is concentrating its effort and resources in the landscape of approximately 1450 sq km naming it as the “Greater Manas Landscape” spreading from Manas National Park (500 sq km), First Addition to Manas NP (350 sq km) and adjoining contiguous forest habitat of Manas (Part), Chirang and Ripu Reserve Forest (app 605 sq km) to the west of Manas N P.

The project is working with a total of 123 fringe villages in a cluster approaches on the southern boundary of the forest spreading across three districts of BTC. Wildlife Trust of India was the pioneer organization to influence the political declaration on the concept of “Greater Manas” in the year 2007 for conservation of the entire landscape by the territorial council. As a result of joint initiative by all these stakeholders; Manas regained its original status of “World Heritage Site” in June, 2011. WTI worked from baseline survey to policy advocacy towards greater protected status of the Manas Reserve Forest as ‘first addition’ to Manas National Park (350 sq kms) in 2016.

WTI has been engaged in this area for over 15 years and in addition to restocking this landscape with elephants, rhinos, swamp deer, clouded leopard and wild buffalo. WTI has also initiated community based conservation activities and alternate livelihoods, legal/capacity training of frontline staff and education and awareness of the community at large towards wildlife conservation.

The long term objective of the project is to sustain the ongoing initiatives of habitat improvement, habitat restoration, weaning forest dependency, and phased species restocking to improve ecosystem functionality.