Guwahati, March 23: In what may be good news for wildlife enthusiasts, a recent survey has revealed the presence of grassland species like Pygmy hog and Hispid hare in Assam’s Manas National Park, known to be the last remaining wild habitat of the two species.
Located about 200 km away from Assam’s main city Guwahati, the Manas National Park is a Unesco World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve.
“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 and hispid hare pellets and feeding signs,” said Manas tiger reserve deputy director Sonali Ghosh, who was also part of the survey team.
The team led by the forest department included grassland experts such as Bibhuti Lahkar from wildlife conservation NGO Aaranyak, Gitanjali Banerji from the Zoological Society of London, Kaushik Deuti from the Zoological Survey of India and several researchers and doctoral researchers currently working in Manas.
The specific targets of the survey were the Pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) and Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus).
The survey also received direct evidence for other grassland obligate species like Hog deer (Hyelaphus porcinus), Swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii) and Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis).
“A total of 20 nests of Pygmy hog were detected at three locations. Hispid hare pellets were found almost on all camp sites,” Ghosh said.
Anindya Swargowary, the park’s field director, welcomed the preliminary results for Pygmy hog, which were earlier thought to be declining in number at the park.
“With this result, Manas is back on track as one of the last strongholds for these endangered species in the wild,” he said.
The numbers of these grassland species need to be periodically monitored and forest staff will be trained for the purpose, he said.
“Wet alluvial grasslands dominated by Barenga (Saccharum narenga) and Ulu (Imperata cylindrica) species under the two ranges were critical for survival of Pygmy hog and hence must be protected by taking suitable measures,” said Bibhuti Lahkar.
The survey team will submit a report to the state government that will include recommendations for making population estimation an annual feature using non-invasive methods.