UN panel asks India to act against poaching in Manas sanctuary

A total of 42 rhinos were poached in Assam last year

New Delhi: Expressing serious concern over poaching of rhinos in Assam’s Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has warned India of including the wildlife reserve in “the List of World Heritage in Danger” if it failed to check poaching and encroachment in the forest.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee at its 38th Session held in Doha last month expressed “serious concern” over the reported recent poaching of nearly one third of the recovering rhino population in the biodiversity hotspot, which was designated a World Heritage site in 1985.

The UN panel has noted with “utmost concern” the reported deterioration of the security situation in the sanctuary, and said that further deterioration, “associated with the reported surge in poaching and concerns regarding encroachment, could create the conditions to re-inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger”.

‘The List of World Heritage in Danger’ is designed to inform the international community of conditions that threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.

The UNESCO has asked India to ensure that forest guards are adequately equipped and trained to protect the property against poachers and maintain effective patrolling, to secure the recovering population of rhino and other wildlife.

The anticipated translocation of Eastern Swamp Deer should be carried out effectively, it has said. The UN panel has asked India to take urgent measures to address the “reported new encroachment” at Bhuyanpara Range within the property, and rehabilitate degraded areas. It also directed India to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2015, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the sanctuary before its 39th session. Covering an area of 39,100 hectares, the sanctuary spans the Manas river and is bounded to the north by the forests of Bhutan.

It is part of the core zone of the 283,700 hectares Manas Tiger Reserve, and lies alongside the shifting river channels of Manas.

The sanctuary provides critical and viable habitats for several rare and endangered species including tiger, greater one-horned rhino, swamp deer, pygmy hog and Bengal florican. (PTI)

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