Manas National Park

The international border between Bhutan and India runs through a protected forest whose Indian side is called the Manas National Park, and the Bhutanese side is named the Royal Manas National Park. The Manas river, named after the snake goddess Manasa, forms part of the international border. We plan to travel to the Manas NP in a couple of months if we are lucky. If we are very lucky we might get to see the critically endangered Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), perhaps a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), and a hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) or two. It is also home to elephants, wild buffalos, tigers, rhinos, golden langurs (see the featured photo), and pygmy hogs. Although these are animals we have seen before, I wouldn’t mind another view.

In 1928 the park was set aside as a wildlife reserve by a British imperial decree. This land, and the adjoining plains, were then home to the Bodo tribe. Empire is extraction (a wonderful case study of the exploitative economics of empire can be found here). The British empire cleared the plains and planted tea, forced the Orang tribe from Bihar and Bengal to migrate here to work the tea gardens, and started logging the forest, while banning “illegal” logging. The displacement of the forest tribe gave rise to a long-running slow war, on both sides of the border, the forest ecosystem was disrupted, and rhinos went extinct locally. The 2003 accord setting up a Bodo tribal area within Assam finally brought peace. Rhinos were reintroduced, and the Bodos began to take care of their forest again.

The best way to travel? I think we could fly in to Guwahati. The drive from the airport to the village of Bansbari, right outside the central zone of the park, should take about 3 hours. In a more relaxed time, one could have taken it slower in the park, and perhaps stretched the visit to a week. For us now, three days in the park, and a couple of days in travel seem to be optimal. The marginal return in terms of new species seen every day would be low after this. I have to make sure that I manage to taste the silkworm dish which is a Bodo delicacy. I last ate silkworm in China, and liked its nutty flavour.