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World Heritage Site : - Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Kamrup district of Assam, is the only Indian site to be placed in the list of 34 endangered ones across the world. Spread over 519.77 square kilometres with a core area of 360 square kilometres, the national park is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. A part of it extends to Bhutan as Royal Manas National Park. The national park has the distinction of being a national park, a World Heritage Site, a biosphere, a Project Tiger Reserve, an elephant reserve and an internationally acclaimed birding location. The name of the park has been derived from Manas River - a tributary of Brahmaputra that flows through the park.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1928. Hunting and killing of wildlife became banned here with the British government declaring it a protected area. It was declared as a tiger reserve, under Project Tiger, in 1973. It got the status of a World Natural Heritage Site in 1985 and in 1990 was elevated to the status of a national park.
Manas was declared a sanctuary on October 01, 1928 and was designated a World Heritage site in the year 1985.The scenic beauty and presence of varieties of wild-life made the Manas National Park one of the envy-able tourist destination. But things got changed after that. In '80s and '90s Manas witnessed instability and large scale destruction. Poaching of famous Rhinos, destruction of infrastructure became rampant in that period. Keeping in mind all these activities, UNESCO declared Manas as a World Heritage Site in danger in the year 1992,seven years later it got a place in the prestigious list.
But, drastic change occurred after a few years. Local people, NGOs supported by Bodoland Territorial Council and Assam government came forward to save the park. Poachers turned to be the savior of the animals. It helped to prevent poaching of animals and other flora and fauna.

Best season
November and February are deemed to be the best seasons, though it rains here only from mid-May to September providing a fairly long visiting season from October to April.Trips into the forest are only permitted between sunrise and sunset; the timings are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Transport
By Air: Guwahati airport is 176 km. away.
By Rail: Barpeta Road (40 km.) is the closest rail head to Guwahati. From here, one can continue onto Manas by road. Barpeta Road also serves as the sanctuary headquarters.
By Road: Manas is accessible from Guwahati (176 km.), Kaziranga (403 km.), Darjeeling (466 km.), Shillong (287 km.) and Siliguri (386 km.).

Wild life
Manas is home to as many as 22 of the 41 Indian species that are classified as 'highly endangered' i.e. under Schedule I in the IUCN Red Book. Wild buffalo and elephants dominate the landscape. Rhinos used to be common, but have been all but wiped out. The Asiatic buffalo is one of the highlights of Manas. Larger than most other elephants on the subcontinent, huge tuskers stroll in large herds across the Manas river that divides Bhutan and India. The tiger and the leopard are the predominant cats in the area but are elusive to the casual visitor. The clouded leopard is another cat that you may be lucky to spot.
Primates include the capped langur and the golden langur on the Bhutan side of Manas. Both are shy and tend to stay high up in trees safe from danger. The golden langurs are a stunning sight on the elegant flowering trees that they inhabit and the only place on the Indian side where they have been reported is in the Chakrasheela forests of Assam. It is possible however to cross the river at its narrowest and row across to the forests of Bhutan to sight them.The slow loris and the Hoolock gibbon also exist here but are rarely seen. Assamese macaques, though rare, exist in the islands downstream where they may be seen in large troupes. If you look out for it, you might spot a pair of attractive Malay tupaia or tree shrew, pygmy hogs and the hispid hare (Assamese rabbit).
The hog deer or pada, barking deer or muntjac, chital and sambar abound. The swamp deer is found in occasional pockets. Sloth bears tend to stay in thick-forested areas, but can be seen at dawn and dusk. Wild pigs are easily seen around rivers and you may chance upon a pack of otters or water monitors here.
An astounding variety of insects, butterflies and birds are found in Manas, making it a rewarding location for ornithologists and entomologists alike. Scarlet Minivets dazzle with their bright orange and yellow garb while Great Pied Hornbills sightings are almost assured in the early morning as they set off from favoured roosting spots in search of food. Kaleej Pheasants and the Red Jungle Fowl seek food under fallen leaves, making brisk rustling movements.
Rare river chats like the Whitecapped Redstart and Forktails frequent the riverine areas and the park continues to be one of the most important areas for the rare Bengal Florican. Cormorants and duck, including the Ruddy Shelduck and the Brahminy Duck are relatively common. The goosander or merganser, a pied bird with a vermilion bill and legs, is a likely sight if you take a boat downstream. Egrets, pelicans and herons along with eagles, falcons and harriers also form part of the aquatic avifauna. Fishing eagles and ospreys are at the top of the river's avian food chain.

Habitat
An area of startling diversity, the gently sloping alluvial plains are watered by countless rivulets, streams and nullahs that carry large amounts of silt, pebbles and even huge boulders downstream at the height of the monsoons! This ageless process has led to formation of alluvial terraces, comprising deep layers of deposited rock and detritus overlaid with sand and soil of varying depth, shifting river channels and swamps.
The terrain is characterised by rocky, porous soils like sandstone, limestone and shale in the bhabar tract towards the north. The coarse detritus is covered with sandy loam and a fine layer of humus. Rich alluvial soils from the Himalayan wash are found in the Terai belt towards the south, where the water table lies very close to the surface.
Manas has over 540 species of plants, which include some rare orchids. Reinwardtia indica, Desmodium motorium, Pueraria subspicata and Biden pilosa are some of the other rare plants found here. The Elaichi phool is a gorgeous flower that can be dazzling in full bloom in the months between January and March.The three main types of vegetation are: (a) Tropical semi-evergreen forests in the north (b) tropical moist and dry deciduous forests and (c) extensive alluvial grasslands in the west, comprising many different grass species along with a variety of tree and shrub species The forests themselves are moist mixed deciduous and semi-evergreen in the riverine areas. Sal forests are found at the foothills and small grassy glades grow under the canopy that blocks off most of the sunlight. Fifty per cent of the sanctuary is covered by grasslands. A considerable variety of aquatic flora is found along river banks and in the numerous pools that dot the area.

Place to See
Wildlife sighting at Manas is neither regular nor frequent, but when it does occur, it is usually at close range.Jeep trails through the forest yield a wide variety of birds and animals. Look in the undergrowth as well as the treetops.
River banks are another sighting spot for elephant and buffalo.Cross over to the Bhutan part of the reserve (with permissions, of course!) for an almost certain sighting of the golden langur.
A small rowing boat is used to go across the narrow, shallow part of the river for a short trip. The summer palace of the King is located in the park and is worth a visit. Bhutanese tribals weave colourful fabric for sale. Remember to take permission from The Forest Department before venturing out.
The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GATC), which is the largest of its kind in India, is a distinctive experience. A stopover at Guwahati, either en route to the reserve or while returning is worthwhile.
A monastery and shrine of the Vaishnavite reformer, Mahadeva, a great disciple of Lord Shankar exists in the district of Barpeta, which is where the Manas National Park is also located. The associated kirthanghar is renowned and attracts Vaishnavites from all over India.

Useful Tips
Vehicles can be taken up to Mothanguri. Jungle visits may be on elephant back, jeep or car. With special permission boat rides are possible. Walking on foot is not permitted, but trips across the river to Bhutan, which involve walking, do provide a great feel of the forest.Elephant rides from Mothanguri are an interesting way to get around the park. Reservations must be made in advance through the Range Forest Officer.
Drive slowly at a maximum speed of 30 km. per hour within the reserve. Do not honk, overtake or leave the prescribed route. Visitors are not permitted to disembark from the vehicle at any point.
There are no catering arrangements in the forest lodges, so visitors are required to bring their own provisions. Utensils, crockery and the services of a cook may be available on request and a small payment. Tips are appreciated.

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