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Conservation amidst political unrest: the case of Manas National Park, India Across the world there exists a large overlap of biodiversity hotspots with areas experiencing high levels of socio-political and ethnic conflicts, making the impacts of such activities a critical factor for long-term conservation of biodiver-sity in these regions 1 . India is no excep-tion with many forested areas, including protected areas, experiencing conflicts of varying intensity owing to numerous complicated issues ranging from cultural identity to socio-political and environ-mental security. Such conflicts not only act as a major impediment to scientific monitoring, protection and management in the biodiversity-rich areas, but also lead to abuse of wildlife and natural areas by conflict parties and opportunis-tic elements in the absence of adequate protection and monitoring forces. There-fore, in the collective interest of biodi-versity conservation, a greater challenge perhaps lies in devising new ways and methods to conserve landscapes in strife-torn areas, where emotions are often charged up and conservation of biodiver-sity does not figure among the immediate priorities. The Manas National Park (henceforth Manas), a UNESCO World Heritage (WH) site (in danger) is a part of the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot in the northeastern region of India. It also forms the core of the Manas Tiger Re-serve, which is recognized as an impor-tant tiger habitat. In 1985, when Manas was listed as a WH site, it not only had a large tiger population, but also other large carnivores as well as diverse and abundant populations of wild ungulates to sustain them 2 . Soon Manas was en-gulfed in the politico-ethnic disturbance that started in and around the landscape in the late 1980s, whereby the Bodo community, the largest tribal group of Assam, was demanding greater political rights and powers. The violence that followed caused large-scale damage to Manas, with the habitat, wildlife, and management and protection activities suffering immensely. It also led to the local extinction of the great Indian one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli rangitsinhi). In 2003, after a long and strenuous period of political negotia-tions, the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) was established within Assam, which provided the local Bodo commu-nity legislative, administrative, executive and financial autonomy in the Bodo-dominated areas of northwestern Assam. This led to a decline in violence at all levels, thus paving way for return of peace and normalcy to the area. With the resolution of the political issues, the BTC leadership along with numerous local and non-local stakeholders took up the task of restoring and recovering the lost attributes of Manas. These efforts find mention in the monitoring mission report of the WH site committee of UNESCO, which recognized the will and motivation of the administration and the local leadership to reclaim the WH status for Manas 3 . However, the major handi-cap towards accomplishing this was the lack of reliable scientific data on the wildlife populations, which is critical to formulating proper monitoring plans for the park 3 . We initiated a study in the national park (NP) region of Manas in 2008 to estimate the recovery of wildlife using the current scientific techniques after violence and political disturbance had ceased. Due to the absence of any previ-ous estimates of the carnivore and prey abundances using similar methods, we tried comparing tiger and prey popula-tion densities from other tiger reserves that used similar methods to gain insights on the ongoing restorations and recovery interventions and processes (Figure 1). The four protected areas of India that we chose for comparison were Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), Kanha NP, Nagar-hole NP and Kaziranga NP, as they were not experiencing any conflicts besides having comparable data 4,5 . Though Manas recorded low abundances of both tiger (1.86 per 100 km –2) and its prey (36.7 km –2) compared to the other reserves, the prey abundances are compa-rable to those of PTR (40 km –2). The study was carried out in the central and eastern ranges (Bansbari and Bhuyanpara respectively) of Manas, which were fast-recovering areas with the protection and management regime being restored. We recommend further rigorous sampling of the entire NP (500 sq. km) and the Tiger Reserve (2837 sq. km) to get a complete picture of the recovery patterns across the entire reserve. Results from our study indicate some signs of improvement for ungulates in Manas, pointing towards a recovery in the animal populations. The preliminary sign encounter survey of carnivores and they prey carried out by us in 2006 as a planning exercise was lower than that carried out in 2008. Multiple captures of rare animals, viz. the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), pygmy hog (Porcula salvania), crab-eating mongoose (Herpe-stes urva) and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) through camera traps pointed to their survival through the con-flict. On scrutinizing the visitor's register in the park, we saw a consistent increase in the number and frequency of the sight-ings. Numerous direct sightings of the rare, yellow-throated martens (Martes flavigula), smooth-coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata), dholes (Cuon alpinus), and the Bengal florican (Hou-baropsis bengalensis) during the survey were also significant indications of recovery. The unanimous perception of local villagers towards an improved wildlife scenario in recent years only substantiated the ominous signs of re-covery. Management and protection is also bouncing back on track with several new protection schemes and patrols be-ing launched. Repair and reconstruction of the old and damaged camps, and con-struction of newer anti-poaching camps are also being undertaken. Translocation of several wild rhinos to Manas in the past two years under the aegis of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 and ongoing
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CORRESPONDENCE
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 100, NO. 4, 25 FEBRUARY 2011 445
Conservation amidst political unrest: the case of Manas National Park,
India
Across the world there exists a large
overlap of biodiversity hotspots with
areas experiencing high levels of socio-
political and ethnic conflicts, making the
impacts of such activities a critical factor
for long-term conservation of biodiver-
sity in these regions1. India is no excep-
tion with many forested areas, including
protected areas, experiencing conflicts of
varying intensity owing to numerous
complicated issues ranging from cultural
identity to socio-political and environ-
mental security. Such conflicts not only
act as a major impediment to scientific
monitoring, protection and management
in the biodiversity-rich areas, but also
lead to abuse of wildlife and natural
areas by conflict parties and opportunis-
tic elements in the absence of adequate
protection and monitoring forces. There-
fore, in the collective interest of biodi-
versity conservation, a greater challenge
perhaps lies in devising new ways and
methods to conserve landscapes in strife-
torn areas, where emotions are often
charged up and conservation of biodiver-
sity does not figure among the immediate
priorities.
The Manas National Park (henceforth
Manas), a UNESCO World Heritage
(WH) site (in danger) is a part of the
Himalayan biodiversity hotspot in the
northeastern region of India. It also
forms the core of the Manas Tiger Re-
serve, which is recognized as an impor-
tant tiger habitat. In 1985, when Manas
was listed as a WH site, it not only had a
large tiger population, but also other
large carnivores as well as diverse and
abundant populations of wild ungulates
to sustain them2. Soon Manas was en-
gulfed in the politico-ethnic disturbance
that started in and around the landscape
in the late 1980s, whereby the Bodo
community, the largest tribal group of
Assam, was demanding greater political
rights and powers. The violence that
followed caused large-scale damage to
Manas, with the habitat, wildlife, and
management and protection activities
suffering immensely. It also led to the
local extinction of the great Indian one-
horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) and
the swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli
rangitsinhi). In 2003, after a long and
strenuous period of political negotia-
tions, the Bodo Territorial Council
(BTC) was established within Assam,
which provided the local Bodo commu-
nity legislative, administrative, executive
and financial autonomy in the Bodo-
dominated areas of northwestern Assam.
This led to a decline in violence at all
levels, thus paving way for return of
peace and normalcy to the area. With
the resolution of the political issues, the
BTC leadership along with numerous
local and non-local stakeholders took up
the task of restoring and recovering the
lost attributes of Manas. These efforts
find mention in the monitoring mission
report of the WH site committee of
UNESCO, which recognized the will and
motivation of the administration and the
local leadership to reclaim the WH status
for Manas3. However, the major handi-
cap towards accomplishing this was
the lack of reliable scientific data on the
wildlife populations, which is critical to
formulating proper monitoring plans for
the park3.
We initiated a study in the national
park (NP) region of Manas in 2008 to
estimate the recovery of wildlife using
the current scientific techniques after
violence and political disturbance had
ceased. Due to the absence of any previ-
ous estimates of the carnivore and prey
abundances using similar methods, we
tried comparing tiger and prey popula-
tion densities from other tiger reserves
that used similar methods to gain insights
on the ongoing restorations and recovery
interventions and processes (Figure 1).
The four protected areas of India that
we chose for comparison were Pench
Tiger Reserve (PTR), Kanha NP, Nagar-
hole NP and Kaziranga NP, as they were
not experiencing any conflicts besides
having comparable data4,5. Though
Manas recorded low abundances of both
tiger (1.86 per 100 km–2) and its prey
(36.7 km–2) compared to the other
reserves, the prey abundances are compa-
rable to those of PTR (40 km–2). The
study was carried out in the central and
eastern ranges (Bansbari and Bhuyanpara
respectively) of Manas, which were fast-
recovering areas with the protection and
management regime being restored. We
recommend further rigorous sampling of
the entire NP (500 sq. km) and the Tiger
Reserve (2837 sq. km) to get a complete
picture of the recovery patterns across
the entire reserve.
Results from our study indicate some
signs of improvement for ungulates in
Manas, pointing towards a recovery in
the animal populations. The preliminary
sign encounter survey of carnivores and
they prey carried out by us in 2006 as a
planning exercise was lower than that
carried out in 2008. Multiple captures of
rare animals, viz. the clouded leopard
(Neofelis nebulosa), pygmy hog (Porcula
salvania), crab-eating mongoose (Herpe-
stes urva) and leopard cat (Prionailurus
bengalensis) through camera traps
pointed to their survival through the con-
flict. On scrutinizing the visitor’s register
in the park, we saw a consistent increase
in the number and frequency of the sight-
ings. Numerous direct sightings of
the rare, yellow-throated martens
(Martes flavigula), smooth-coated otters
(Lutrogale perspicillata), dholes (Cuon
alpinus), and the Bengal florican (Hou-
baropsis bengalensis) during the survey
were also significant indications of
recovery. The unanimous perception of
local villagers towards an improved
wildlife scenario in recent years only
substantiated the ominous signs of re-
covery. Management and protection is
also bouncing back on track with several
new protection schemes and patrols be-
ing launched. Repair and reconstruction
of the old and damaged camps, and con-
struction of newer anti-poaching camps
are also being undertaken. Translocation
of several wild rhinos to Manas in
the past two years under the aegis of the
Indian Rhino Vision 2020 and ongoing
Figure 1. Tiger (Panthera tigris) at the
Manas National Park in March 2008.
CORRESPONDENCE
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 100, NO. 4, 25 FEBRUARY 2011
446
plans of swamp-deer translocation in the
near future are important steps towards
restoration and recovery.
Recent news reports and developments
suggest an emerging system and agree-
ment of trans-boundary joint protection
and management regime, which would
be implemented jointly with Bhutan. It is
a significant development since the for-
ests of Bhutan, contiguous to Manas, not
only provide critical corridors for move-
ment of large animals, but also act as a
safe refuge during disturbance and con-
flicts to which the Indian part remains
vulnerable owing to higher population
and developmental pressures. Currently,
several organizations, including the
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-
India programme), Aaranyak and ATREE/
UNESCO are collaborating to provide
technical support to the government’s
efforts at scientifically estimating the
wildlife/tiger population in Manas.
Manas is recovering. However, to sus-
tain this recovery combined efforts of the
BTC, the Assam Forest Department, the
local community along with stakeholders
at several levels spanning local, regional
to international agencies, governments,
and academic and civil society institu-
tions would be critical. With an extended
favourable social and political climate
and popular support for conservation
activities and rigorous science informing
political decision-making, we can hope
for the emergence of a stronger and resil-
ient Manas, which can remain secure and
buffered from future setbacks.
1. Hanson, T., et al., Conserv. Biol., 2009,
23, 578–587.
2. Deb Roy, S., Tigerpaper, 1991, 18, 6–15.
3. Debonnet, G. and Lethier, H., World Heri-
tage Committee, United Nations Educa-
tional Scientific and Cultural Organization
Mission Report Manas Wildlife Sanctu-
ary (India), Quebec, 2008, p. 39.
4. Karanth, K. U., Nichols, J. D., Kumar, N.
S., Link, W. A. and Hines, J. E., Proc.
Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 2004, 101, 4854–
4858.
5. Carbone, C. et al., Anim. Conserv., 2001,
4, 75–79.
RAJKAMAL GOSWAMI*
THYAGARAJAN GANESH
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology
and the Environment,
Royal Enclave,
Sri Ramapura, Jakkur PO,
Bangalore 560 064, India
*e-mail: rajkamal@atree.org
Misuse of scientometry for individual assessment
Many scientists in India, young and old,
are getting preoccupied with scientomet-
rics, and phrases such as ‘impact factor’,
h-index’ and ‘number of citations’ are
being heard often in conversations among
them. What is disturbing is that many
times these factors weigh heavily in sci-
entific hirings, promotions and awards in
the country, and actual serious discussion
of the scientific contributions which
merit such recognitions is lacking. This
trend is influencing and pressurizing
young researchers into getting unduly
concerned about citations-based recogni-
tion by pursuing scientific bandwagons
at the cost of doing creative science
which may not be fashionable at present.
Thankfully, for the most prestigious
prize in science, it is heartening to see that
scientometrics is not the basis of the award.
Recent Nobel Prizes have been awarded
to scientists who may not rank at the top
either on the number of publications or on
the h-index. Examples are Venky Rama-
krishnan (2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
and Koichi Tanaka (2001 Nobel Prize in
Chemistry). It is indeed well known that
in some instances the work for which a
Nobel Prize is awarded becomes highly
cited only after the award, as the award
highlights the importance of the work.
This state of affairs is reminiscent of
the efforts to measure the intelligence of
humans in the 19th and 20th centuries,
chronicled in the book, The Mismeasure
of Man by Stephen Jay Gould1. The
intelligence of a human was reduced to a
number by methods such as craniometry
(measuring the skull volume) and psycho-
logical testing. Based on these studies, it
was erroneously concluded that women
were less intelligent than men and that
whites were more intelligent than other
races. The intelligence quotient (IQ)
which was based on psychological test-
ing and which was first introduced with
the noble purpose of identifying children
who required special attention in the
Montessories, was twisted and misused.
For instance, IQ became the basis on
which lower immigration quotas were set
for East Europeans compared to West
Europeans for settling in the United
States.
It has been shown that impact factors
of journals can be raised by artificial
means. So also can the ranking of institu-
tions by methods which have a high
weightage for scientometrics. Further-
more, citation to a work does not neces-
sarily mean approval of the work and can
often be a scathing criticism. It also does
not mean that the work is original, since
reviews which are just compilations of
the work in a field often attract a large
number of citations.
Scientometry can be helpful in assess-
ing institutions and departments, instead
of individuals. This is so because,
like statistics, scientometric analysis is
helpful when applied to large numbers.
It can tell us about the state of activity of
groups to make decisions regarding
funding and remedial measures to
improve a certain institution or depart-
ment. But, using it to evaluate individual
scientists for career advancements and
recognitions must be stopped. Hence-
forth nominations for awards and
fellowships, papers for promotion, and
application forms for faculty positions
should desist from asking for scientomet-
ric information of individuals. Assess-
ments must be made solely on the merit
of the scientific contributions of the
individual concerned.
1. Balaram, P., Curr. Sci., 2004, 87, 273–274.
S. RAMASESHA1
DIPTIMAN SEN2,*
1Solid State and Structural Chemistry
Unit, and
2Centre for High Energy Physics,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore 560 012, India
*e-mail: diptiman@cts.iisc.ernet.in
... Studies indicate that several biodiversity hotspots in the world are currently in areas of significant political volatility and armed conflict(Hanson et al., 2009). Such conflicts often result from the intentional and unintentional exploitation of wildlife and other natural resources, such as forest timber, by conflicting parties(Goswami & Ganesh, 2011).With human security concerns taking priority, financial resources and international aid is often diverted to peacekeeping, rehabilitation and humanitarian efforts, thereby marginalising conservation activities and priorities. Manas met the same fate during the insurgency period that lasted for almost a decade and a half from 1989 until 2003. ...
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... MNP is a site where prey densities are not limiting, yet anthropogenic influences alter the spatial and temporal behaviour of prey . Situated in a region that has experienced armed ethnopolitical conflict from the late 1980s until 2003, studies show that populations of several species were depressed, but are now recovering (DebRoy, 1991;Goswami & Ganesh, 2011Lahkar et al., 2018). More specifically, parts of MNP that have remained conflict-free since 2003 (Bansbari-Bhuyanpara ranges) have significantly higher photo-capture rates of ungulates than an area that experienced conflict until 2016 (Panbari range) (Lahkar et al., 2018). ...
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Many biodiversity hotspots experience high political volatility and armed conflicts. But their impacts on wildlife conservation are poorly understood. In this study we analyze the influence of fifteen years of armed conflict and subsequent peacetime interventions on wildlife populations in Manas National Park, India. Camera trapping and line-transect surveys were carried out to estimate the densities of carnivores and herbivores respectively. Using relative abundance index, the estimated densities of the three large felids were: tiger, Panthera tigris (1.86 animals/100 km 2), leopard, Panthera pardus (1.68 animals/100 km 2), clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa (0.58 animals/100 km 2). Among the ungulates, which are the principal prey species of tigers, wild-buffalo, Bubalus arnee was most abundant (22.88± S.E. 11.63 animals/km 2). The combined density of the ungulate species was 42.02 animals/km 2 . Our data and observations from the field indicate that except for the rhino, Rhinoceros unicornis, most wildlife species survived the conflict. Relationships between ungulate and tiger abundances indicate that Manas can support more tigers than are currently present. The ongoing restoration efforts seem to have an uplifting effect on the overall profile of the park, particularly on tourism and in engaging local communities. Our baseline estimates for the large cats and their prey species will enable future evaluation of the recovery process with respect to change in species abundance over time.
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Article
Large carnivores have experienced significant global range contractions and recovering their populations is often contingent on increasing prey abundances. In Manas National Park (MNP), following nearly two decades of ethnopolitical conflict, studies document that populations of both prey and predators were depressed. Here we assess the status of wild ungulates in a section of MNP (Bansbari-Bhuyanpara) that has remained conflict-free for over a decade. For seven ungulate species, we estimate species-specific densities using distance-based sampling, assess species-specific space-use patterns in relation to habitat variables within an occupancy framework and examine patterns of temporal activity in relation to times when people access the park for resources. Further, by comparing temporal activity patterns of ungulates between MNP, a site where local communities access the park for resources, and Kaziranga National Park, where human use of the park is minimal, we examine if species activity is altered in response to human presence. We estimate that currently Bansbari-Bhuyanpara ranges of MNP support 42.66 (34.16-51.16) individual ungulates/km 2. Our results highlight that current patterns of human access within the park affect both spatial and temporal behaviour of these species. Although we estimate a relatively high recovery potential for tigers in MNP given current prey densities, we suggest that further ungulate population recoveries could be supported in the park. With several ungulate species experiencing range-wide declines, efforts to minimize non-lethal human disturbances on these species also need to be considered to ensure that predator-prey systems remain intact.
Thesis
Protected areas constitute central strategies for the conservation of most biodiverse places in the world. These biodiversity hotspots, as well as the protected areas that contribute to their conservation, have been affected by armed conflict since the end of WWII. Yet, the impact of armed conflict on protected area governance along with the type of protected area governance arrangements and institutions that emerge and operate during wartime are still little understood. Building on the literatures on protected area governance and wartime social orders, this research makes a contribution to the protected area governance research agenda by examining how armed conflict impacts and transforms protected area governance. It also identifies the strategies that protected area stakeholders adopt in contexts of violent conflict to be able to continue with conservation efforts. Drawing from a neo-institutionalist understanding of protected area governance, this research develops and applies an analytical framework to examine how the constitutive elements of protected area governance systems (i.e. actors, resource attributes and institutions) are transformed by armed conflict. Using two protected areas in Colombia as case studies, this research argues that protected area governance does not disappear but is transformed by armed conflict. Furthermore, it provides significant evidence on how the transformation of protected area governance systems allows protected area managers to achieve certain conservation results in the midst of armed conflict through the adoption of specific strategies. However, whether the efforts and strategies adopted for the transformation of protected area governance systems during armed conflict open up possibilities for the protected area community to gain a more active role in peace building efforts remains an open question.
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India is no exception with many forested areas, including protected areas, experiencing conflicts of varying intensity owing to numerous complicated issues ranging from cultural identity to socio-political and environmental security. Such conflicts not only act as a major impediment to scientific monitoring, protection and management in the biodiversity-rich areas, but also lead to abuse of wildlife and natural areas by conflict parties and opportunistic elements in the absence of adequate protection and monitoring forces (Goswami, 2011). The story of Manas Tiger Reserve is also coinciding with the cases of resource conflict and socio-political disturbance of rest of the country. However, the initiation of community protection groups and their sudden crisis turn the whole conservation and coexistence mechanism to a different angle. This ultimately damages the sustenance of the reserve. The present paper tried to pull up the cause and socio-political interest grown up around the park in last few years after the new BTC administration came in operation.
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The monitoring and management of species depends on reliable population estimates, and this can be both difficult and very costly for cryptic large vertebrates that live in forested habitats. Recently developed camera trapping techniques have already been shown to be an effective means of making mark-recapture estimates of individually identifiable animals (e.g. tigers). Camera traps also provide a new method for surveying animal abundance. Through computer simulations, and an analysis of the rates of camera trap capture from 19 studies of tigers across the species' range, we show that the number of camera days/tiger photograph correlates with independent estimates of tiger density. This statistic does not rely on individual identity and is particularly useful for estimating the population density of species that are not individually identifiable. Finally, we used the comparison between observed trapping rates and the computer simulations to estimate the minimum effort required to determine that tigers, or other species, do not exist in an area, a measure that is critical for conservation planning.
Article
Conservation efforts are only as sustainable as the social and political context within which they take place. The weakening or collapse of sociopolitical frameworks during wartime can lead to habitat destruction and the erosion of conservation policies, but in some cases, may also confer ecological benefits through altered settlement patterns and reduced resource exploitation. Over 90% of the major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred within countries containing biodiversity hotspots, and more than 80% took place directly within hotspot areas. Less than one-third of the 34 recognized hotspots escaped significant conflict during this period, and most suffered repeated episodes of violence. This pattern was remarkably consistent over these 5 decades. Evidence from the war-torn Eastern Afromontane hotspot suggests that biodiversity conservation is improved when international nongovernmental organizations support local protected area staff and remain engaged throughout the conflict. With biodiversity hotspots concentrated in politically volatile regions, the conservation community must maintain continuous involvement during periods of war, and biodiversity conservation should be incorporated into military, reconstruction, and humanitarian programs in the world's conflict zones.
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Hanson, T., et al., Conserv. Biol., 2009, 23, 578-587.
World Heritage Committee, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization Mission Report-Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India)
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  • H Lethier
Debonnet, G. and Lethier, H., World Heritage Committee, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization Mission Report-Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India), Quebec, 2008, p. 39.
  • C Carbone
Carbone, C. et al., Anim. Conserv., 2001, 4, 75-79.