India, Bhutan suggest a seamless Manas- Officials of both countries decide on national park without borders to make it more tourist-friendly
Guwahati, Nov. 20: Tourists to the Manas National Park would soon be able to move freely into its Bhutan-based portion, thanks to a joint initiative by park officials of both countries to promote Manas as a composite entity.
This, among many other issues, was discussed at the India-Bhutan Manas coordination meeting on tiger conservation held at Gelephu in Bhutan on November 18-19. Indian park officials also visited the Royal Manas National Park during their stay in Bhutan.
Royal Manas National Park field director Tenzing Wangchuk told The Telegraph over phone from Bhutan, “Attempts should be made to form a tourist circuit connecting both the parks to attract more tourists.”
He agreed that this was for the first time that groundwork had been done to encourage tourist movement in the entire park.
At present, foreign tourists visiting the Royal Manas National Park have to get a visa to visit the Indian side. Even Indian tourists have to fulfil several norms to visit the Bhutan side.
“The idea is to simplify the procedures so that movement of tourists becomes easy from one park to another,” Manas National Park field director A. Swargiary said.
In fact, the Royal Manas National Park has opened its gates to tourists only a few months back.
“In terms of international cooperation, Manas National Park in India just had its world heritage site in danger status removed and plans to carefully develop the wildlife sanctuary as a sustainable unique tourist destination. Together with Bhutan’s RMNP, the two parks can now work together to provide and promote more eco-tourism opportunities in the region,” a WWF Bhutan report said.
Sources said the decision could be formally implemented only after being cleared by the ministries concerned, adding that more meetings would be held next month to simplify the procedures involved.
The meeting also decided to start joint patrolling in a coordinated manner and start information sharing.
“If there is information about illegal activities on either side, the park directors will call each other. Earlier, it was done at a local level,” the official said.
Camera trapping of Manas tigers, carried out in the Bansbari and Bhuyanpara ranges on the Indian side in November last year and the Manas range on the Bhutan side in January this year, had revealed that tigers roamed freely across the border.
“Four common tigers were caught on camera, which proves that they migrate from one park to another,” a forest official said.
Both countries have agreed to come out with a joint report on the camera trapping, with pictures and population estimates.
Sources said 10 tigers were spotted in Manas range of Royal Manas National Park, while nine were spotted in the Manas National Park.
A report prepared on camera trapping in lower foothills of Royal Manas National Park by the Bhutan-based Ugyen Wangchk Institute for Conservation and Environment said camera-trapping exercises were under way in Umling and Gomphu ranges, which could be supporting 15-20 tigers.