India's Manas: A national park with a turbulent past
Manas National Park, located in the far north of the Indian state of Assam and partially in the country of Bhutan, is attempting to recover from a very chaotic past. Manas is a place of picturesque landscapes and ideal wildlife habitat making it unsurprising that many people think it is one of the most beautiful parks in the world. There is just one very important thing missing: wildlife.
Until the 1980's and 90's Manas was teeming with wildlife. Then political conflict hit the area and people practically emptied the park of animals. Before the conflict Manas boasted 100 rhino. Until last year, there were none.
With the conflict under control three organizations including IFAW, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and the Assam Forest Department are working to repopulate the park. The habitat makes it an ideal location to release rhinos and elephants rehabilitated at the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near Kaziranga. So far three rhinos have been released and six elephants, all of them orphaned either due to poaching of the mothers or permanent displacement from natal herds during times of floods.
Hopefully rehabilitation programs such as this will prove successful for this endangered species. It would be a shame to have such ideal habitat go unused in a world where good wildlife habitat is shrinking.
PART II: "Hello. Welcome. Rhino."
We were approaching the boma at the rhino rehabilitation field station inside Manas National Park when a ranger greeted us with this simple yet very clear phrase. As we approached the boma, one of the rhinos was standing just on the other side as if she too wished to say: "Hello. Welcome. Rhino." It is possible that she had been informed about a 4:30 viewing because she could not have been better prepared. She posed for us for several minutes, then returned to dinner with her other rhino friend. Both rhinos joined another orphaned rhino at an adjaecent boma under a soft release program earlier this year from the IFAW/WTI Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) at Kaziranga.
It was wonderful to see all three rhinos adjusting well to their environs in the Manas national park after being orphaned due the devastating floods in earlier years at Kaziranga. Not only are they adapting well to a wild environment but they are also a testament that Manas, whose wildlife were poached during in the last decade, is becoming once again a safe place for wildlife. As they continue to adapt, the walls of the boma will be taken down and the rhinos will once again live a fully wild life. Hopefully it won't be too long before other translocated rhinos join them so that they can greet their own kind with a simple "Hello. Welcome. Rhino."