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Area and Location

Royal Manas National Park is the oldest National Park situated in the south central foothills of Bhutan (90°35’ E to 91°13’E and 26° 46’N to 27° 08’N). Spanning an area of 1057 km2, the national park falls within the political jurisdiction of three Dzongkhags i.e.,Zhemgang, Sarpang and Pemagatshel. The national park can be accessed from Bhutan, and the Indian state of Assam.

Connected by the biological corridors to Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park in the northwest, Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in the southwest, Phrumsengla National Park in the northern center, Jomotshangkha Wildlife Sanctuary in the south east, the location of Royal Manas National Park is notably outstanding and forms the cornerstone of protected area network in Bhutan. Further the national park abuts with Indian Manas National Park in the south, forming a significant part of Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA) for promoting landscape level ecosystem management.

Edged against the magnificent emerald Manas River, the national park is arguably an oasis filled with remarkable diverse floral and faunal assemblage. Dense towering mountains punctuated with rivers and small streams invariably characterize the park. The park habitat includes extensive areas of tropical monsoon forest interspersed with swathes of natural grasslands and wide river-beds along the southern border. The lowest hills of park are clothed in tropical moist forest, which gives way temperate broadleaf forests in the higher elevations. A dense oak forest dominate the higher ridges.

Management History and Evolution of Management Plan

The Royal Manas National Park is the earliest addition to the protected area network in Bhutan. It started as a game sanctuary and was later notified as Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in 1964.In the year 1993, it was upgraded and constituted as Royal Manas National Park through mergence of Namgyel Wangchuck Reserve and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. The first conservation management plan was enacted for the period from 1995-2000 chiefly prioritizing on infrastructure and human resource development. The paucity of scientific studies and other socio economic activities were mainly due to the lack of technical competency and political upheaval, which prevailed along the neighboring country. Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in the management of park recourses giving prominence to scientific core management based on park zonation. The use of cutting edge scientific tools such as the non-invasive camera trap method in studying the ecology of the big cat species has been a key feature in linking research to on ground conservation activities. Anti-poaching and socio-economic activities, habitat management and communication facilities were also up scaled in the second management plan period from 2009-2014.

Conservation Significance

Located at the convergence of the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan bio-geographical realm, the Royal Manas National Park forms a part of the ten global biodiversity hotspots constituting remarkably a diverse and rich ecosystem of international significance. The national park is the central thread that connects other protected areas in Bhutan and further adjoins with the World Heritage Site (Manas National Park) in India forming an integral part of TransboundaryManas Conservation Area (TraMCA).The region forms an indispensable corridor for the Terai-Arc tiger Conservation Complex between Terai regions of Nepal and India with landscapes in northeastern India, Myanmar and Southeast Asia. The significance of the entire Manas landscape as a single Transboundary entity and as conservation complex is acknowledged globally by no less than the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris (Borah et al.2012).This conservation complex is also identified as one of the important Tiger Conservation Landscape (TCL) #37(Namdapha National Park- Royal Manas National Park) for the long-term survival of tigers in the wild (Sanderson et al. 2006).

The unique landscape of RMNP forms an important natural conservatory of the country representing outstanding habitat diversity ranging from tropical monsoon forests (< 500m) and subtropical forests (500-1000m) to warm broadleaved forests (1000 m-2000m) and cool broadleaved forests (2000m-2714m). The park owes its name and also much of the spectacular grandeur from the life giving ´Manas river`. The river Manas forms the lifeline of RMNP providing a large track of highly significant watershed area. Emerging from the convergence of Drangme Chhu and Mangde Chhu, the Manas river is one of the largest Himalayan tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra river.

The national park is home to two endemic and globally threatened species viz. golden langur and pygmy hog. It is one of the few places in the world to harbor highest felid diversity of 8 species of which 5 species are listed in red list of IUCN. Renowned for its spectacular landscape suffused with one of the highest diversity of species in the country, it provides a safe refuge for charismatic species, which are endangered such as the Royal Bengal tiger, golden langur, clouded leopard, Asian elephant, Asiatic water buffalo, dhole and Asiatic gaur. RMNP is now increasing acknowledged as an important source population of Royal Bengal Tiger and their conservation now requires, more than ever before, informed conservation interventions guided by sound ecological knowledge.

Biodiversity Richness

RMNP is famed for harboring one of the greatest populace of wildlife diversity. The park has 558 species of flora, 65 species of mammals, 489 species of birds, 60 species of fishes and more than 180 species of butterfly species recorded till date. Out of the 65 mammal species recorded, 2 species are critically endangered, 8 species are endangered, 9 species are near threatened and 11 species belong to vulnerable list. Species from 8 orders belong to IUCN Red List.

Known as the paradise for birdlife, Royal Manas National Park has an incredibly high diversity of avifauna with a record of 489 species listed till date (April 2016). Within an area of 1057 sq. km, more than 70% of bird species found in Bhutan are present in RMNP. The extraordinarily rich bird diversity is mainly attributed to existence of vast areas of relatively undisturbed natural habitats, with swathes of savannah grasslands to vast expanses of old growth tropical and subtropical and temperate forests along wide altitudinal range. The park is home to three species of critically endangered species, White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis), White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), five species of Near Threatened, and six species are Vulnerable (Tragopan satyr) (Indicator xanthonotus) (Buceros bicornis) (Speclaeornis caudatus) and (Alcerdo Hercules) in the IUCN redlist of threatened species. It is one of the few protected areas in Bhutan, providing a safe refuge for all the four hornbill species.

The national park is also home to globally rare and endangered floral species such as Dalbergia oleveri ( IUCN endangered species), Aquilaria malaccensis (IUCN vulnerable) species) and Taxus baccata (Scheduled 1 species in FNCA 1995) and Podocarpus neriifolia the only conifer broadleaved tree found rarely distributed in the park area. The rapid assessment of herpetofauna diversity survey conducted along the fringe areas of Royal Manas National Park showed an addition of 8 new species. The Assam day gecko, Cnemaspsis assamnesis, which was recorded in the park, is known to be one of the rarest gecko so far known only from Northeast India.

Climate and Vegetation

Royal Manas National Park has a moist subtropical to cool temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Summer lasts from May to August with annual maximum temperature ranging from 20oC to 40oC. The rainfall ranges from 200mm to 4400 mm annually. Autumn lasts between September and November experiencing changeable weather, which gradually takes on the shape of winter pattern. Characterized by cool weather and fog, winter is relatively drier with rare shower and average temperature ranges from 5oC to 20oC.The park experiences strong to moderately strong wind in the months of February- April.

The forest types of Royal Manas National Park are broadly classified into four eco-floristic zones such as Tropical monsoon forests (< 500 m), Sub-tropical forests (500 -1000 m), Warm broadleaved forests (1000 – 2000 m) and Cool broadleaved forests (2000-2714 m) (Wangchuk 2009).

Geology, Rock and Soil

The geology of RMNP consists mostly of Buxa formation characterized of dolomites, quartzite, variegated phyllite, overlain by Manas formation and Shumar formation characterized of meta sedimentary phyllite, quartzite and thin calcareous bands containing dolomite and limestone bed rocks (Sherub and Wangchuk 2006). The southern part of the park consists of bhabar tract containing sandstone, limestone and shale. Bhabar tract formation is very porous due to the deep deposits of coarse detritus overlain by sandy loam and a thin layer of humus. Alluvial and colluvial formation result from slow erosion of rock from the northern area of the park stemming as a result of heavy rainfall during monsoon. The alluvial formation is distinguished by mixture of boulders and sand, covered by debris, sand, soil, silt and clay brought down by the rivers.

Hydrology and Water Sources

Royal Manas National Park abounds with perennial rivers and transitory streams and rivers formed during the peak monsoon season. The largest river of the country, Manas drains about two third volume of the water of the country. It springs from four major tributaries viz. Mangde Chhu, Chamkar Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Drangme Chhu in eastern and central Bhutan. The other perennial rivers such as Udigang, Kukulung and Kanamakura river forms some of the important watersheds of RMNP. Waterholes and mineral licks form an integral part of functioning ecosystem. Waterholes and saltlicks are erratically distributed with higher density along the foothill belt of the park.

Park Management Zones

In the first Conservation Management Plan five management zones were categorized in the year 1995-2000 depending on the various land-use types and human settlements. The park zonation was later reformed into three zones namely core zone, multiple use zone and buffer zone in 2012 to achieve the vision and management objectives of RMNP.

Contact Info:

  • Email ID: rmnp.gelephu@gmail.com
  • Telephone number: Park Manager –00975 6 252256
  • Telephone Number: PABX – 00975 6 252258
  • Fax number: 00975 6 252255

Core Zone

The core zone spanning an area of 653 km2 constitutes major portion of the park with representation of diverse ecosystem. The criteria for delineating the core zone was based on the presence of prime habitats of endemic, rare and endangered species, area with high biological diversity, existence of pristine sub-tropical and tropical forest with interspersion of grasslands and prevalence of saltlicks and waterhole sites. The designated area is prohibited to human related activities except for regulated research, monitoring programs and patrolling. A proportion of low impact Mathanguri-Panbang road in Manas Range is included in the core zone for maintaining continuity and integrity of the core zone.

Objective

  • To preserve pristine forests in as near natural conditions as possible by providing complete protection against all the forms of biotic interference.
  • Maintain natural course of ecological succession.

Multiple – use zone

The multiple use zone covering an area of 404 km2 consists of settlements, agricultural land and orchards, community forests, grazing land, power lines, road networks and government reserve forests for allocation of resources for the local residents. The benchmark for delineating multiple use zone was based on the presence of settlements and resource areas for local residents, ecotourism trails and campsites, areas having road network and power lines and existence of individual and communal grazing areas.

Objective

  • Facilitate sustainable utilization of natural resources without having any ramifications to the core zone.

Buffer zone

Two buffer zones viz. east and west buffer covering an area 137 km2 lie outside the park boundary and do not come under the purview of park management. However, the park staff will have the prerogative to assess and patrol this zone and prevent illegal or other activities that may adversely impact on the national park. The width of the buffer zone is 4.5 km from the park boundary. The criteria for delineation of buffer zone was based on the presence of important habitat outside the park boundary, special landmark features and areas that are likely to pose threat to the park.

Objective

To provide an extra layer of protection to the national park by maintaining existing forest cover in order to eliminate, minimize or mitigate any negative impacts from existing resource and land use methods.

RMNP has its third Conservation Management Plan prepared that covers 5-year plan period from July 2015-June 2020. The Conservation Management Plan provides a framework for proactive decision making, guide and facilitate biodiversity conservation, natural and cultural resource management, park development, and all other management activities which will allow park management to effectively address future problems and opportunities.

Following guiding principles forms the foundational core for the development of vision, management programs and actions.

(i) Sustainability

Royal Manas National Park is acclaimed by many as a splendor of nature where natural systems are mostly allowed to function with little or no interference. It is for this reason that the National Park continues to enhance and promote the essence of sustainability for maintaining the ecological integrity and to provide the future generations with a National Park that can, at the very least be enjoyed and utilized as it is today. For realizing the vision and objectives, the various needs of those enjoying, living and working in the Park must be integrated with the requirements of the National Park´s special environment and resources. To facilitate this, the conservation management plan should subject to appraisal in order to assess the potential social, economic and environmental impacts resulting from the proposed aims, goals and policies and actions. Harmonizing the conservation and economic needs of the local communities is pivotal for successful implementation of conservation interventions. Every attempt shall be made to ensure the correct balance exists between pressures and needs, conservation and enhancement and opportunities.

(ii) Adaptive management and employing agile and informed management

Ecosystems are complex and dynamic and our potential to predict how they will reciprocate to management actions and human use is often restricted. Despite the uncertainties management decisions (to either take action or not) must be implemented. The conservation management plan should be sufficiently flexible to allow for change throughout the implementation process. Continuous learning through past experiences and modifying practices and dynamic adjustment shall be the core of adaptive management approach. This approach will particularly be important in the light of shifts in climatic, ecological and social economic conditions. The effective adaptive management will therefore be contingent on regular monitoring and evaluation of the conservation interventions and consequently improve planning and delivery of conservation inputs (NCD 2004).It should be considered and applied during the implementation of projects as well. The planning for and management of natural resources should strive for continuous improvements and effectiveness through adaptive management of natural resources.

(iii) Research and science

Research and science shall form the principal component in making responsible decisions in the management, planning and implementation, as well as to broaden scientific understanding and predictive capacity to deal with new situations. For informed conservation interventions, it should be guided by a reliable scientific knowledge, supported by vast range of research studies, including an integrated scientific monitoring framework in place. Royal Manas National Park has initiated a lot of research studies integrating both ecological and social aspects and will continue to give precedence on research to help employ agile and informed management.

(iv) Leadership and Stewardship

The conservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage of Royal Manas National Park shall be under the auspices of the government, employees and the local communities of Royal Manas National Park. Leadership and stewardship should be reflected by setting examples, taking responsibilities and by demonstrating and advocating environmental and heritage ethics and practices, and by assisting and cooperating with others. Effective leadership is all about inspiring and empowering people and having an intentional influence on the people for a common purpose of wildlife conservation. The park management will continue to empower the local communities who are the stewards of the park and other stakeholders by leading and setting right examples in an effort to achieve the vision and objectives of the national park.

(v) Cohesive participation and collaboration

Participation is the bedrock of policy planning and management practices to help ensure sound decision making, build public understanding and provide opportunities for the people to contribute knowledge, expertise and suggestions. To ensure that the national park is managed sustainably and to facilitate delivery of the National Park´s objectives, the park management will strive to establish and maintain meaningful and beneficial relationship with a wide range of stakeholders and further contribute towards strengthening stakeholder-RMNP relations by empowering stakeholders and local communities to participate in decision-making processes related to management and development issues in RMNP.

Vision: To maintain the ecological integrity through conservation and protection of the national park´s biodiversity in congruence with social and economic environment and to preserve the wilderness qualities and cultural resources associated with the National Park

Vision and Management Objectives of RMNP

Objectives under Biodiversity and Ecosystem and Integrated Conservation and Developmental Objectives

Terms of Reference for Park Manager

  • Responsible for the overall management of general administrative and financial supervision.
  • Implementation of the park conservation management plan.
  • Preparation and submission of annual budget and action plan.
  • Proper and effective implementation of policies, rules and regulations of the Government (Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995 & Forest and Nature conservation Rules of Bhutan 20006).
  • Submission of half-yearly and annual progress reports.
  • Preparation and submission of annual plan budgets.
  • Provide the guidance to the park Rangers falls under him both in administrative and technical fields.
  • Organize and arrange to conduct major/emergency anti-poaching squads.
  • Rescuing the wild animals and translocation the in proper safe place and monitoring.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of the performances of the junior park staff.
  • Provision of guidance to his subordinates on administrative, financial and technical matters.
  • Facilitation of use of forest resources by the indigenous people living in and around the park for their bonafied use as per the existing rules and regulations of the Government.
  • Supervision of all development and maintenance works to control in quality and budget.
  • Coordination and liaison with other Govt. organizations/ local NGOs and key figures at the local level.
  • Maintenances of working relations with the counterpart Indian authority’s transboundary issues.
  • Facilitation of major research and study programs.
  • Maintenance and dissemination of information relating to the park.
  • Enhancing forestry extension and service delivery to the general public.
  • Establishing effective forestry information and data management system.
  • Liaise with the Dzongkhag to ensure adequate supply of timber to rural communities within the protected area.
  • Responsible for development of infrastructure within the protected area.
  • Liaise with FID for proper collection, management and use-of forest data.
  • Deal with issuance of clearance for land use change.

Terms of Reference for Research, Information and Management Planning Section

  • The section would gather, collate, and organize information on the biodiversity resources relates to flora, fauna, avifauna and herpetofauna. Further develop herbarium collection of important plant specimens
  • Apart from preparation of annual and monitor plans, the Research, Information and Management Planning Section would review, initiate proposals and projects related to research on biodiversity.
  • Coordinate and conduct all biodiversity surveys, studies and research in the park in close collaboration with other section heads and Park Range offices.
  • Develop and distribute field manuals, publications and information related to flora and fauna for the park staff.
  • Prepare annual reports and 5-year management plan (when needed)

Terms of Reference for Communities, Recreation and Development Section

  • Coordinate, monitor and implement any issues and activities related to Human Wildlife Conflict.
  • Develop, implement and monitor eco-tourism activities and further oversee management of eco-camp sites, trails, eco-lodges inside the park
  • Develop, implement and monitor ICDP activities.
  • Coordinate EE activities.
  • Develop brochures, information pamphlet, pictorial books, and publications and distribute to Park Range Offices and tourists visiting the Park.
  • Maintain, manage and upgrade the library section

Terms of Reference for Conservation and Protection Section

  • Coordinate all wildlife anti-poaching activities inside the park in close collaboration with the Park Range Offices and submission of monthly patrolling report to the headquarter.
  • Conduct EIAs for forestland clearances.
  • Organise forest fire control and suppression.
  • Manage wildlife rescue centers and develop taxidermy of all the vertebrate species of all mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
  • Organise forest felling against infections.
  • Follow up on forest legal issues.
  • The section would gather, collate, and organize information on illegal activities.
  • Deal with any issues and matters related to arms and ammunition.

Terms of Reference for Range Office

  • Allocate park resources to communities, and government, private, and religious bodies inside the park as per the latest Forests & Nature Conservation Act, rules, circulars, and notifications
  • Conduct regular patrolling within their respective jurisdiction
  • Implement and assist Section Heads in implementing park activities as per the park’s management plan, operational plan, ad-hoc plans, minutes of meetings, and central programs from the Department.

The National Park is spearheaded by the Chief Forestry Officer and is responsible for the overall management and administration of RMNP. There are broadly four sections under RMNP namely Research, Information and Management Planning Section, Communities, Recreation and Development Section, Conservation and Protection Section and Resource Allocation Section. The Park is divided into 3 Ranges viz.,Manas Range,Umling Range and Gomphu Range.

The staff strength of Royal Manas National Park is comparatively much higher than the other Parks, since park is located in the south-central part of the Country and whole stretch of south park boundary falls from the Sukuntaklai–I/B interception the boundary heads east along the I/B until the interception of Soimari river and I/B.

The whole stretches mentioned above is bottle neck of the Royal Manas National Park faces the pressure from the illegal poaching of wildlife and timber smuggler from across the border due to porous borders and have to carry out frequent routine patrolling almost in regular basis. The patrolling duty in these stretches could not conduct with few nos. of field staff due to risk of life during the encounter with the poachers and militant, for this minimum staff required in the group at least 10-15 staff, because of this the strength of staff is more in RMNP and it requires continuous in future too to curbed the illegal activities.