India’s Manas National Park Wins Conservation Award

November 30, 2020

Home to 42 greater one-horned rhinos

Strasburg, VA – In the foothills of the Himalayas, Manas National Park is a haven for endangered wildlife, including tigers. It was also historically home to the greater one-horned rhino. But due to intense poaching pressure, by 2005, there were no rhinos left in the park.

Fifteen years later, Manas National Park in Assam, India and the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan have received the TX2 Conservation Excellence award for 2020. The award recognizes a site that has achieved excellence in managing tiger and prey populations, habitat conservation, protection, and local community involvement.

“On behalf of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), we congratulate the national park officials and local community around Manas National Park and the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan for this recognition of their outstanding conservation efforts,” said Nina Fascione, executive director of IRF.

Though the award was given for conservation excellence for tigers, the greater one-horned rhino and other wildlife have also benefited from the Parks’ efforts. “Coordination and partnerships have been key not only for protecting tigers, but for the successful restoration of rhinos in the park,” said Fascione.

The park had experienced instability due to socio-political unrest in the region. Poachers take advantage of the proximity to the border and the ability to evade authorities enroute to black markets in China.

In 2005, the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV2020) program was established to increase the rhino population in Assam to 3,000 by establishing populations in new areas. Thanks to this initiative, rhinos are now found in four Protected Areas in Assam: Pabitora Wildlife Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, and Manas National Park.

Bringing rhinos back to Manas was never going to be easy. IRV2020 identified the need for habitat and security assessments and it was crucial to engage local community organizations as well as government and park authorities to implement improved security.

The first translocation of rhinos to Manas took place in 2008 and established an initial population of 18. There are now a total of 42 greater one-horned rhinos in the park and hope for continued growth into the future.

Groups partnering with IRF on the IRV2020 program have worked to continuously improve protection and enforcement over the course of the program. Poaching significantly decreased in 2018 and 2019 – the results of forestry, local and national government officials coordinating efforts to combat wildlife crime across Assam. So far in 2020, only 2 rhinos were lost to poaching and none so far in Manas.

“In the challenging year that 2020 has been, it is important to celebrate successes as well,” said Fascione. “This award demonstrates that protection of wildlife and biodiverse habitats can benefit us all.”