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Rare wildlife species still existent in Assam’s Manas National Park

The Pioneer,  Guwahati, 24th  March,  2014

A recent survey has proved the existence of highly endangered species like the pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) and hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in Assam’s Manas National Park.

Manas used to be known as the last remaining wild habitat, of these two highly endangered grassland species in the world, till few years back. However, from last several years these species were believed to have been declining from the park.The survey, jointly carried out by the Assam forest department in association with wildlife NGOs and individual experts from Zoological Society of London, Zoological Survey of India and others has found at least 20 nests of pygmy hog from three separate locations in the park. Similarly, hispid hare pellets were also found on almost all camp site locations.

Besides these two species, the survey also brought to focus direct evidence for other grassland obligate species such as hog deer, swamp deer and bengal florican in the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve.The team will soon submit a detailed report to the Government of Assam, which will include the recommendations for making the population estimation an annual feature using non-invasive methods and will also spell out specific conservation strategies to conserve the micro-sites.

Park’s field director Anindya Swargowary, while expressing happiness over the result of the survey, said that Manas is back on the track as one of the last strongholds for these endangered species in the wild due to this survey.

A total of 17 camp sites under prime grassland habitat were surveyed under two ranges of the park—Bansbari and Bhuyanpara. GPS-based sign survey method was used to look for indirect signs such as pygmy hog droppings, nests, hispid hare pellets and feeding signs and the specific targets of this collaborative survey have been the pygmy hog and hispid hare.

“We need to monitor the population of all these grassland species periodically,” the park field director said adding that the forest staff will soon be trained to check the same using some of the indirect signs like nests and droppings.Bibhuti Lahkar of the wildlife conservation NGO Aaranyak, who was also a part of the survey, said that the wet alluvial grasslands dominated by Barenga (Saccharum narenga) and Ulu (Imperata cylindrica) species under the two ranges were critical for the survival of pygmy hog and hence they must be protected by taking suitable measures such as early mosaic burning and systematic removal of anthropogenic pressure such as grazing and the spread of invasive species.