Manas National Park: where ex-poachers are the wildlife conservationists!
Just as much I like the idea of exploring new places and watching beautiful sunsets, I admire meeting inspiring people and places too. A village transforming itself into India’s greenest village and setting example for the rest of the country, a community teaching a better and happier way of living, an individual preaching hope in life – and there are other examples that I came across during all these years of travelling but didn’t mention on my blog.
One such story, I recently come across (of an inspiring place) was during my recent trip to Bodoland.
‘Poachers turned wildlife conservationists’ can be the title of the story, where a bunch of poachers came out in the real world as the protagonist heroes, gave up poaching and dedicated their lives to conserving the wildlife… and in the process, transformed not just their life but of an entire National Park’s and of the local community, dwelling around it.
Hey, wait, I see another angle to the story… where poachers turning into wildlife conservationists is certainly exemplary, what can be more exemplary, and worth appreciating, is the society accepting the idea and letting those poachers have another life. And because who understands animal behaviour better than those who once hunted them, it did the wildlife big favour making these poachers the messiah and protectors themselves.
The Story of Manas National Park
From outside, Manas National Park looks like just another wildlife safari park where tourists enjoy a jeep safari, spot some wild animals and talk about it on social media. But if you try to dig a little deeper through its skin, you see stories far more worth exploring than just the wildlife.
Until 2003 – the time when Bodoland was going through an armed insurgency – wildlife in Manas National Park rapidly dwindled due to killing and poaching, with the worst period being between 1988 and 1997. In 1990, there were between 85-100 rhinos in the park, but not a single rhino was traced in the next survey in 2001. In 2003, when a peace agreement was signed and Bodoland Territorial Council was formed, Manas National Park was also put on the list of World Heritage in Danger.
In 2006, the process of relocation (from Kaziranga National Park) of wild animals and improving the state of Manas National Park began. Today, the park has around 45 rhinos and 9 tigers.
Where conservation authorities have certainly helped improve the state of Manas National Park and made it what it is today, the biggest contribution came from the local community – where women took just as much the lead as men. People realise that this is their forest and they must preserve it. Women decided that they would no longer cook bush meat.
Beyond Manas National Park: What To See & Do In Bodoland
The One-Armed Man & Other Heroes of Manas National Park
During our 2-day stay in Manas National Park, we visited Buddeswar and others who were once known for their notorious poaching acts. Buddeshwar, now a popular face with mentions in almost every local newspaper and magazine had lost one arm in an encounter with a wild boar. With whatever’s left of him, he now saves the wildlife.
The reasons for Buddeswar to quit poaching, however, were socio-political. Poaching was too risky during the armed insurgency period in Bodoland, as police would pick up any young man with possession of a gun on the pretext of being an insurgent. At the time of insurgency, Buddeswar stopped poaching and moved to Bhutan in search of work. When insurgency stopped and BTC came into power, Buddeswar returned to India and started a new life as the wildlife conservationist.
For the past 15+ years now, the 45-year-old Buddeswar begins each day briefing the fellow volunteers, attempting baby-steps in saving the wildlife in and around Manas National Park. And well, if it’s not for those like him, the wildlife reserve will lose all its inhabitants to other poachers and human intervention.
Manas is the true example of the importance of involving the local people in conservation efforts.
I mean think about it this way… who can better understand a crime (well, crime is a harsh word to use here anymore but it does justice to the statement) than those were actually once doing it? And even more respectful here is the acceptance of the idea by the society and local communities.
Is Manas National Park Work Visiting?
Any visit to Manas national park – even if it’s the shortest safari available – guarantees rhino spotting.
Having said that, Manas National Park is certainly worth visiting. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an elephant reserve, and a biosphere reserve, the mentions of Manas National Park are certainly exemplary.
Geographically speaking, Manas National Park shares a border with Royal Manas National Park in the neighboring country of Bhutan, which is also accessible for Indian tourists. Both are well-known for their rare and endangered wildlife, including the wild water buffalo, the golden langur, the Assam roofed turtle, the pygmy hog, and the hispid hare.
Top Tips For Manas National Park
- Manas National park remains closed to visitors from June to September.
- The park remains open during the fall, winter, and spring months.
- The ideal time to visit Manas National Park is between November and April, which guarantees more wildlife spotting.
- Except for during peak winter months, Bodoland can feel quite humid, with a sub-tropical climate, so pack accordingly.
- Bring insect repellent. Mosquitos in Assam are no joke!
- Located nearly 150km from Guwahati, Manas National Park can be visited from Guwahati on a day trip.
- The best way to experience Manas National Park, however, is by staying near the park.
- I stayed at Smiling Tuskar Elephant Resort in Manas. I can recommend the place.
- You will need to get permits to enter the Manas National park. For Indian residents, the gate entry ticket costs 200 rupees per person for a full day, while the full-day entry fee for foreigners is 2,000 rupees.
- Jeep safaris at Manas National Park start at 9 a.m. and conclude at noon. Evening safaris begin at 2 p.m and last until 5 p.m
Have you been to Manas National Park? Or heard about it before?