India, one of the earliest signatories to the World Heritage Convention, has only five key Protected Areas currently on UNESCO’s World Heritage List - Kaziranga and Manas in Assam, Keoladeo in Rajasthan, Nanda Devi in Uttaranchal and Sundarbans in West Bengal. These sites seek to conserve the most significant natural and biodiversity heritage.
Kaziranga National Park, located in the heart of Assam in northeast India, is recognised as one of the most successfully managed protected areas in the world. It is home to the world’s largest population of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. It has among the highest density of tigers, along with large breeding populations of elephant, water buffalo and swamp deer. It is recognised as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International for conservation of avifaunal species. UNESCO declared Kaziranga as a World Heritage Site in 1985. The park celebrated its centenary in 2005.
Manas National Park, located in Assam along the eastern Himalayan foothills bordering Bhutan, is a combination of spectacular beauty and unique habitat. Apart from the charismatic carnivore and herbivore species, the park is famous for its rare and endangered wildlife found nowhere else in the world: like the Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur and pygmy hog. It has the largest population of the endangered Bengal florican, besides other major bird species. Manas National Park is also a designated tiger reserve, elephant reserve and biosphere reserve. UNESCO declared Manas as a World Heritage Site in 1985. However, this designation was revised in 1992 to WHS in danger due to destruction of park infrastructure and depletion of forest habitat and wildlife population resulting from ethnic insurgency in the region. The situation is now under control and the park is in a stage of recovery.