After exploring the Sundarbans we returned to Kolkata and flew to Guwahati in the Indian state of Assam. Located in northeastern India, Assam contains some of the richest biodiversity in the world. We planned to visit two National Parks, Manas and Kaziranga, which are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Our first stop was Manas National Park, a 4-hour drive from Guwahati. Located in the Himalayan foothills, it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. We set off in an open jeep to explore the forests and grasslands of Manas. The park is famous for its population of truly Wild Water Buffalo.
|Wild Water Buffalo Bull|
Other large mammals found here include Asiatic Elephants, Gaur (Indian Bison), Tiger and Greater One-horned Rhinos.
It's not easy spotting wildlife in the dense forests or tall elephant grass but if you're lucky you can catch animals in the open like this Capped Langur and Malayan Giant Squirrel.
|Malayan Giant Squirrel|
Manas is a birder's paradise with more than 450 species. Again, it's not always easy to see them in the thick vegetation but our guide Gajendra was a master at spotting them and Marc did a great job photographing them. Here are a few of our favorite bird photos.
|Male and Female Kalij Pheasants|
|Yellow-footed Green Pigeon|
The main road through the park actually crosses the border into Bhutan. The border post wasn't manned so we entered Bhutan without a visa, let alone our passports.
|Us at the Border Crossing into Bhutan|
The birding in Bhutan was just as great including this spectacular Green-billed Malkoha,
a Great Barbet
and this beautiful Blue Rock Thrush.
|Blue Rock Thrush|
The wild orchids were also in bloom this time of year.
We didn't venture too far into Bhutan and returned to India to have lunch and resume our search for wildlife. We caught this female Hog Deer in the open next to the road.
|Female Hog Deer|
Although common in Manas, the Hog Deer is classified as endangered. Over the last 20 years or so the Hog Deer has suffered a 50% decline. The decline has been the highest in the eastern part of its range where the population has dropped by 90%. The Hog Deer is now one of the most threatened large mammals in Indochina and is believed to be extinct in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, China and in most of Cambodia and Bangladesh. Assam remains one of the last strongholds for this endangered species. Threats include hunting, habitat loss and habitat degradation. As we were leaving the park a small herd of Hog Deer were resting peacefully in the forest including this beautiful stag with antlers still in velvet.
|Hog Deer Stag|
It was great to see that the wildlife in Manas is thriving and is being protected. In 1985 UNESCO declared Manas a World Heritage Site but in 1992 it was listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger due to heavy poaching and terrorist activity. Thankfully, it was removed from that list in 2011 and commended for its efforts in preservation. We hope this park will remain a safe heaven for the rare and endangered wildlife that depend on Manas for their continued survival.
We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc