Where tigers are making a comeback

Updated - September 02, 2017 10:41 pm IST

Published - September 02, 2017 09:04 pm IST

The relocation may be done within this year.

The relocation may be done within this year.

Tigers will roar again at Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal. Located in Alipurduar district, the reserve, parts of which border Bhutan, has been identified for the tiger augmentation programme by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

How big is it?

Notified as a tiger reserve in 1983, Buxa consists of moist, deciduous and evergreen forests. It stretches to a length of 50 km from west to east and 35 km from north to south.

Over the past few years, the number of tigers in the Buxa reserve has been hotly debated by wildlife enthusiasts. While Forest Department officials claimed there were tigers in the reserve, almost no sighting of the big cats raised questions about their presence. The survey of tigers in 2011 based on DNA analyses of scat put the number of tigers at 20.


Where will tigers come from?

The Sunderbans in south Bengal is home to about 100 tigers. Experts have consciously decided not to augment tigers in the Buxa reserve from the Sunderbans, a completely different mangrove ecosystem.

Instead, tigers from the forest reserves of Assam, which have a similar flora and fauna, will be introduced in Buxa. The reserve is located very close to Assam’s Manas Tiger Reserve, and some experts believe that animals from Manas often come to Buxa using Bhutan as a corridor.

What are the challenges?

The initial plan is to introduce six tigers at Buxa, but this poses a challenge to forest officials as there is human habitation in the area.

The tiger reserve has an area of about 757.9 sq km, of which 390 sq km lies in the core area and 367 sq km in the buffer zone. There are about 38 villages in Buxa and 49 villages in the fringe area.

A number of tea gardens are located on the periphery of the reserve.

The people residing in the villages mainly work at the tea plantations. In an attempt to mitigate the human versus animal conflict, the Forest Department has started awareness programmes in the villages before introducing the tigers.

Besides the population pressure, another major challenge at Buxa is the broad gauge rail line passing through the reserve, connecting Siliguri and Alipurduar. Over the past few years, a number of elephants and other animals have died, having been run over by trains.

The Buxa reserve is home to smaller cats such as leopards which occasionally surface in the tea gardens nearby.

There are also common clouded leopards, jungle cats and fishing cats. The herbivore list includes elephants, Indian gaur, chital, sambars, barking deer and hog deer.

It is home to at least 68 species of mammals, 41 species of reptiles and more than 246 species of birds, four species of amphibians, 73 species of fishes and over a hundred species of butterflies and moths.

What is the stricture on tourists?

Besides the arrival of tigers, wildlife enthusiasts have another reason to cheer as the Eastern Circuit Bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed the State government to close all tourist accommodations in the Buxa reserve. The Tribunal was responding to a petition by an environmentalist who alleged that the tourist facilities had come up in violation of the Indian Forest Act and other laws. In an order issued earlier this week, the Bench asked the Forest Department to submit a compliance report by the second week of October. There are about 90 accommodations, run by both the Forest Department and private operators, in the reserve.

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