Trans-boundary conservation: a mammoth challenge

A report states that Trans-boundary Manas Conservation Complex could be the only landscape in the world with eight species of cats (felids) co-existing in the same area

The Trans-boundary Manas Conservation Complex (TMCC) between Bhutan and India is an extremely unique and rich landscape with variety of wild cats and a host of different prey species.

This was revealed by a study carried out jointly by Bhutan and India. The Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan and the Manas National Park in India fall within the TMCC.

While the rich landscape boosts of many flora and fauna, challenges in conserving the rich landscape has always been a problem.

The study highlights various challenges that affect the protection and conservation of TMCC.

Poaching of wildlife and illegal logging have always been the biggest challenges. Even though poaching of wildlife and smuggling of timber were largely under control in both sides of the parks, the study points out that the highly porous border between the two parks provide conducive conditions for clandestine activities by anti-social and criminal elements.

Another challenge is logistics constraints where remote border locations, rugged landscape and poor basic infrastructures limit the geographical mobility as well as hamper road access and create communication bottlenecks.

“Such situation constrains efficient patrolling and monitoring of the protected areas,” states the study.

While development activities like hydropower projects, road construction, laying power lines, irrigation and industrial enterprise have been increasing, it has been noted that there are long term bearing on the ecological integrity of the two national parks.

TMCC also continue to face pressure from the thickly populated pockets of human settlements in the fringe areas of the respective sites as well as from illegal entry across the national borders.

“Dependence on forest resources for domestic consumption, commercial markets, livestock grazing and land encroachments continue to create management challenges for the park authorities to deal with the socio-economic dimensions of the problem,” states the study.

Another challenge comes from the research and monitoring limitations. The study says that lack of skilled personnel and resources for scientific research and monitoring of habitat and wildlife is a challenge for informed management interventions in conservation.

“Incorporating principal concepts of modern ecological and social sciences in management and monitoring is imperative for ensuring the maintenance of the natural attributes of the protected areas,” added the study.

While there are many challenges, civil unrest within both the national parks the area had to confront ethnic and political disturbance with grave security and conservation implications.

“The decade long ethnic strife of the Bodo indigenous community and rebel insurgent groups of India directly affected park staff, infrastructure, wildlife and habitat which hampered effective management of both the sites,” states the study.

However, conditions have since improved for the better with political stability and recovery of wildlife population.

The study also suggests various recommendations on the way forward to conserve and protect the TMCC.

It recommends increased joint patrolling by forest staffs at the field level for effective protection efforts by identifying areas and ensure regular meetings and discussions between the authorities of both MNP and RMNP.

“This will aid in greater coordination in decision-making on issues of common interest for TMCC,” states the report.

It is also suggested that both the parties integrated monitoring of wildlife which aims to better assess the distribution and abundance of the wildlife species and share information about illegal activities like poaching, logging and other wildlife crimes across the landscape at the highest levels of the park management.

Other recommendations include coordinated tourism strategy which enhances tourism and income potential while ensuring ecological sensitivity, habitat and climate studies in the TMCC landscape, and corridor connectivity where it not only looks at TMCC’s conservation but conservation beyond the park corridors to ensure long-term integrity of TMCC and its biodiversity.

This Article was published in Business Bhutan

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