The preliminary reports of analysis of scat samples collected during the ongoing tiger estimation exercise have revealed a “significant number” of tigers in the Buxa Tiger Reserve – a reserve where tiger numbers have been estimated to be “critically low.”

During the field surveys being conducted for the nationwide tiger census, Reserve authorities had simultaneously initiated a project for the collection of scat to enable the DNA profiling of the tigers in the reserve, R. P. Saini, field director of Buxa Tiger Reserve told The Hindu .

Of the 83 samples collected, 55 were fit for analysis. The preliminary report from the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad has confirmed that 33 of these samples are of tiger origin, Dr. Saini added.

“Although more than one of these may be from the same tiger and a detailed report about the number, gender and profile of the tigers is awaited, it confirms that there are a significant number of tigers in the Reserve,” he added.

“We are quite impressed with the results since the scat collection exercise could not even be completed properly. We were to have collected samples in five rounds, but had to abort the exercise in the third round itself, because of the early rains,” Dr. Saini said.

Frugal numbers of tiger sighting in the dense forests in Buxa have prompted questions whether there were any tigers left in the reserve. In April this year, a tiger was photographed for the first time since the reserve was set up 27 years ago, dispelling fears of complete extinction. Surveys conducted earlier have pegged tiger numbers to be as low as 12.

At the time of collection of each sample, the GPS positions were recorded. Once the detailed report is received, the areas with higher tiger density will be identified and camera traps will be set up in those places, Dr. Saini said.

A detailed scat collection exercise is going to be carried out in November.