As a part of its programme to augment tiger numbers, the state wildlife department is in the process of translocating deer from different parts of the state to Buxa Tiger Reserve in Alipurduar. If the translocation is a success, the department will then procure its first tiger next year.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and state Chief Wildlife Warden Ravi Kant Sinha on Saturday said as many as 250 spotted deer had already been moved to Buxa Tiger Reserve, and another 50 sambhal deer are now to be translocated from Jaldapara Sanctuary.
“The translocation will take place as soon as Durga Puja is over. In order for tiger augmentation programme to succeed, we have to make sure that there is enough prey. We have had a very high success rate in translocation of deer. Out of 250 spotted deer… only two have died. Whereas the norm is that during the translocation of deer, at least 50 per cent of the deer die. This is because deer are extremely sensitive creatures and have weak hearts. This was a 600-km-long journey. We made sure we would transport only at night under darkness, when there was little noise, to ensure that the deer has as little stress as possible,” said Sinha.
The Buxa Tiger Augmentation Programme is the first of its kind in the state. Sinha says that according to the official count, carried out by protocols set up by the Centre, there is only one tiger in the reserve. The state wildlife department, on the other hand, believes that there may be up to six tigers living in the reserve.
“If all goes well and the deer adapt to their new environment, we will be procuring our first tiger from Assam in January next year,” he said. The department is looking at procuring anywhere between three to 10 tigers over the coming years.
The Detailed Project Report for the programme had been approved by the Centre and the state wildlife board last year. The Buxa programme was developed by the department with the assistance of the Global Tiger Forum and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
“We will be the third tiger reserve (in the country) to attempt this. The tiger population has been decreasing in Buxa over the past few years for a number of reasons. Inbreeding among tigers here is one reason. The others include human incursions, shortage of food and migration of tigers to other areas,” said the chief wildlife warden.
The two other sanctuaries to attempt the programme in the country are Sariska and in Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. In Sariska, the project was unsuccessful, and petered out soon after it began.