One of Assam’s smallest wildlife sanctuaries could be the newest home of the tiger in the State.
Wildlife specialists have the first photographic evidence of a tiger inhabiting the 26.22 sq. km Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary straddling northern Assam’s Baksa and Udalguri districts and bordering Bhutan. The tiger was captured in camera traps during an exercise for more than a month up to May 10.
Members of the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF) and officials of the Assam Forest Department had carried out the camera trapping.
“We had set up the first camera trap in 2014 but could only see pug marks. The Forest Department too recorded pug marks in 2016. The images this time augur well for the small habitat well connected to a corridor between the Royal Manas National Park and the Jomotshakngkha Wildlife Sanctuary,” WWF-India’s Sunit Das told The Hindu on Monday.
The 1,057sq. km Royal Manas and the 334.73sq. km Jomotshangkha are in Bhutan and part of the Greater Manas landscape. Barnadi was once connected to Assam’s Manas National Park about 80 km to its west, but the area in between has been fragmented due to human habitation.
To the east of Barnadi, along the India-Bhutan border are the Khalingduar Reserve Forests and the 220 sq. km Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary where the captive-bred pygmy hog, the smallest and rarest species of wild pigs, was first rehabilitated.
“Barnadi may not be a permanent habitat of the tiger, which could have come from Bhutan. Even then, the photographic evidence of a flagship species indicates better conservation efforts, particularly with the number of tigers in Manas National Park increasing threefold to 30 in 10 years,” Mr Das said.
Mizoram’s Dampa Tiger Reserve, measuring 500 sq. km, has a similar status. Tigers visit the wildlife habitat occasionally from the adjoining Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.