Local and landscape level conservation challenges to tiger population in Manas Tiger Reserve, India
Dipankar Lahkar*, Anukul Nath*, Sahil Nijhawan#, Bibhuti Lahkar* And M Firoz Ahmed* *Aaranyak, 50, Samanwoy Path,Survey, Guwahati, Assam. Www.Aaranyak.Org #Panthera, 8 West 40th Street, 18th Floor, New York, Ny 10018, Usa
Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?
The study was done to identify some grave threats in Manas Tiger Reserve (MTR) (2837 km2) to tiger, prey animals and their habitats, to support management plan. We mapped the illegal encroachment in the MTR using high resolution Google Earth imagery. The results suggest that 40% area of the landscape has permanently gone. The threats to tigers in the MTR are both severe as well as widespread, especially outside Manas National Park (MNP) (500 km2),core area of the reserve.
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?
We superimposed the tiger habitat in the reserve with 5 x 5 km grid. However, the grid is the smallest spatial unit in our analysis, therefore, while making maps, the threats were assumed to be uniformly distributed within a grid. We interviewed the stakeholders within each of the grids. We conducted field visits to confirm the threat assessment. A total of 10 threats were identified divided into two categories – direct threats and indirect threats. Each threat within a grid is scored based on two components: scope (high, moderate and infrequent) and severity (high, medium, low). The threat was classified as one of the four ‘scope’ categories: not present, 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, or, greater than 75% of the grid. In our case we have three conservation targets – tigers, prey and habitat. Severity of the threats within the grids was ranked as high, medium, or, infrequent.
Results: What are your most important results?
40% of the total landscape has been permanently lost. Connectivity still exists between the adjoining Bhutan. This encroachment is largely believed to be permanent. The combined threat surface for the MTR indicates that the best protected part of the reserve is the MNP and Chirang Reserve Forest (RF). Kachugaon(RF) and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary, the western and eastern extremities respectively of the tiger reserve are under immense grazing and logging pressure.
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?
The sustainable conservation and long term survival of tiger would have a major challenge if the connectivity is not established. The division of the administrative power creates is significant disparity in the number of park staff. Camera trapping conducted by Aaranyak in 2012 revealed the presence of 18 tigers in the core area. However, despite better protection and management, Manas still suffers from serious threats, especially the large buffer zone.