The Buxa Tiger Reserve in north Bengal, identified as a low density tiger reserve, may in fact harbour a greater number of the big cats as indicated by initial reports of scat samples.

“We had sent 83 samples to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad of which 55 were fit for analysis. Preliminary reports confirmed that 33 of these samples are of tiger origin,” Field Director of Buxa Tiger Reserve R.P. Saini told PTI.

During the tiger estimation exercise, scats were collected to enable DNA profiling of tigers in the reserve, but the exercise could not be completed due to rain and another full-fledged exercise would be undertaken after the monsoon, he said.

Describing the preliminary findings as “very encouraging”, he said it clearly indicated the presence of a number of tigers in the Buxa Tiger Reserve.

Asked to give the number of big cats in Buxa Tiger Reserve, he said although a detailed report about the number and gender of the tigers was yet to be received, it could be anything between 12 and 16.

Questions were frequently raised about the presence of tigers in Buxa Tiger Reserve where a big cat was photographed for the first time since its inception.

NTCA had identified Buxa as one of the reserves having low density tiger population and constituted a special team last year for urgent appraisal of the reserve.

He said that reports regarding preliminary findings were submitted to the state government as well as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Encouraged by the reports, the State government has sanctioned Rs. 30 lakh to the Buxa Tiger Reserve for the development of grasslands in the reserve, he said.

Saini said scats were also sent to ‘Aranyak’, an NGO based in Assam, for analysis and their preliminary report. He also said that 35 of the samples belonged to tigers.

He said that GPS positioning was recorded during the scat collection and after receiving the detailed report camera traps would be set up in areas with high tiger density.

BTR authorities had earlier toyed with the idea of going in for captive breeding to maintain the tiger population.

Now they have decided to relocate nine villages from the core areas of the reserve. The villages to be relocated outside the core area are Jainti, Bhutiabasti, Gangutia, Raimatang, Butrhi, Adma, Pana, 27 mile and 28 mile, he said.

The relocation would start anytime after funds were received from the government for the purpose, he said adding residents of eight villages had already agreed to opt for a monetary package for relocation.