so I suppose those who have been to both parks would have a better idea as to which site is preferable.
I have enjoyed your informative selection lists over the past week - I will try to get round to addressing some of them now we are back after a few days travelling!
Regarding Manas v Kaziranga. We visited both in Feb 13 - My reviews on this Web site cover some of the factors I would take into account.
Manas certainly covers a transitional area bringing in both Indian and Himalayan fauna/flora. However the lack of the Bhutanese element does detract somewhat from that aspect. Also it is rather degraded following insurrection/poaching etc.
Kaziranga provides a far better chance of seeing the species which visitors want to see. As regards the comparison of landscape - my memory/impression is that Kaziranga actually provides a more "varied" one than does Manas in its current boundaries. The significant "hills" of the Manas area only really start most visibly at the Butanese frontier!! This geographical change was presumably a major factor in how Britain determined those borders?. Manas extends to the river which forms the frontier with Bhutan but is largely fairly level forest. Kaziranga is far more varied including of course a large "riverine" aspect.
I guess we need to have some discussion about some of the factors we can/should take into account for selecting our top 400. (I exclude the issue of the "Top 200" which it appears is going to be a totally "personal" choice (and nothing wrong with that! People can decide for themselves how much to "listen" to the "top 400" arguments and how much to go totally their own way). How should we handle the following issues when determining our "Objective" Top 400?"Iconic Species"
In pure "animal rights" terms the protection of, say, the La Gomera Giant Lizard (I use this example as I have just been investigating it, but I could choose any of hundreds of endangered non iconic species which are present in many WHS!) is as important as the protection of the Bengal Tiger. But we can't choose every WHS which happens to be the last viable habitat of some species or another whilst, at the same time trying to reduce the List to c400 sites. The World Heritage scheme doesn't even try to encompass every site with an endemic or highly endangered species- and other schemes are more concerned with that aspect. OK - the Nomination of every natural site tries to "big up" its endemism (even incorrectly - as I have just discovered with Garajonay!) but most are presented on a balanced score card (Just a few are really present simply because of just one species - but even that is questionable on the same arguments as here). So - how do WE decide how much importance to give to the preservation of different species - does the poor unloved "Pygmy Hog" get it or the majestic world famous "Rhino"?? Perhaps we have to explain to our "Little Green Man" that we humans decide which animals to "love" more than others on some rather illogical factors - e,g size and "looks" (especially "cuddliness"!). So the Giant Panda wins hands down because of its appealing looks and the Tiger because -?? Well we consider it "magnificent" (because it kills other animals?!!) and are somewhat afraid of it and.... well you can add some more reasons why it is "Iconic"!! Even if one wants to be "scientific" and bring in arguments about the Tiger's importance in the food chain as the "top predator" etc we have to answer why, for instance, the Vulture which carries out a very important job isn't "loved" at all!
I think it is also important to recognise/accept that, just because we exclude from our list of 400 a site which is doing a grand job to preserve a non iconic species, doesn't mean that we think that work or that species to be unimportant. We are not suggesting that ONLY 400 sites should be preserved -we recognise that all the others will stay on the full list and that there are also other lists and means of preserving species.
Finally on this subject- I would suggest that preservation of a "Race" is less significant than the preservation of a "Sub-species" etc through "Species" and "Family". There is a tendency to try to categorise sub species as species to improve their importance. A creature like the Okapi for instance is one of only 2 members of the Giraffidae family, For that reason I would "up" the importance of the Okapi compared with some other species - not a "clincher" but another "factor" for consideration?Visiting Experience
When we visited Manas we met some bird watchers who were spending time there because they felt it was better for seeing the Bird species they wanted to see. They weren't bothered with Tigers or Rhino! The majority of people however are going to find Kaziranga a better experience (despite the fact that it is much busier). Rhino are guaranteed and even Tiger is quite likely. Should this be a factor when showing our World to our "Little Green Man"? The definition of a good "visit experience" obviously can't/shouldn't take into account any personal factors or requirements but should be based on how good the viewing of what the site is primarily on the WHS list for is likely to be. There is a "problem" with sites where visitors can't "see" anything!! I think of the Indian Sundarbans where no visitors are allowed inside the core area - a reason in my view for selecting the Bangla Desh site!! Conversely of course there may be just soo many visitors that the visit experience (and the site itself?) is degraded. In that case. all other things being equal, I would choose a less visited alternative site on this factor if there were one. The "little green man" needs to know that "preservation" comes ahead of "visiting" but that ability to and quality of visiting isn't unimportant for the WHS scheme.Condition
The suggestion that "Endangered sites" should not be selected has been rejected (and I don't disagree with that) but I do feel that a site's general "condition" should be taken into account - not as the sole factor, but as a means of discriminating between 2 otherwise fairly similar sites.Classification/Representation
I have just looked at the IUCN list of "Habitats" - it has 18 major categories and over 100 sub categories! And there are other systems of classification of Natural sites too - the "Udvardy Classification of Biogeographical Provinces of the World", The WWF system etc etc. As with endangered species we just can't ensure the representation of every type of "habitat"/"biome" within a selection of 400 and have to find some basis on which to discriminate. We should try to ensure that each of the "Highest level" of classification is covered but we just can't grind too small. Those sites which cover a range of zones/habitats should perhaps be given a degree of priority because of that fact. It could be said that, as a "transitional area" Manas covers 2 zones - but the Himalayan is going to be included anyway isn't it? Very small zones could be regarded as dispensible simply because they don't cover a very large part of the Earth - on the other hand, because they are small, they can be "unique" - I think of the Cape Floral Zone. It then comes down to their relative significance. The Cape Floral zone is pretty "high up" the classification scheme and deserves to be represented on that basis. i.e "types" should be given priority over "sub types"? (The same arguments apply to e.g Architectural Styles - I see that there is some argument for "Art Nouveau" architecture in the form of the Horta houses" - I would tend to regard that as a sub type which doesn't justify inclusion simply to give it a representative. In any case some of the "Cities" will adequately cover that style of architecture on their own)
To return to the specific Manas v Kaziranga issue - I choose the latter on the basis of the above factors
a. Better for "iconic" species (however illogical!)
b. Better visit
c. Better condition
d. Manas "transition" aspect not so important given other selections