The West Bengal wildlife department will begin a statewide census for tigers and other animals in November. The department recently concluded its elephant census and in its report said that there are 490 in North Bengal and 200 in South Bengal. Counting of both elephants and tigers is carried out every four years, while for other animals it is done once in two years in the state.
State wildlife officials are, meanwhile, in talks with their Assam counterparts to try and procure more tigers for West Bengal’s Buxa Tiger Reserve as part of its ‘Buxa Tiger augmentation programme’, the “one of its kind” in East India.
“According to the official count, carried out by protocols set up by the Centre, there is only one tiger in the Buxa reserve. We, however, believe that there may be upto six tigers in the reserve. We are talking to Assam right now and are looking at procuring anywhere from three to ten tigers from there. This will be done in a phase-wise manner. We will first release these tigers into the reserve, see how they behave before releasing others,’’ said Chief Wildlife Warden of West Bengal Ravi Kant Sinha.
Sinha further said that deer population and that of other smaller animals will also be augmented to ensure that the tigers have prey and a conducive environment to exist. The first tiger is likely to be procured by next year.
The Detailed Project Report for the programme has already been approved by both the Centre and the State Board of Wildlife earlier this year. The programme has been developed by the wildlife department with the help of the Global Tiger Forum and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
“This is a one of its kind programme which has not been tried often. We will be the third tiger reserve to attempt this. Tiger population has been decreasing in Buxa over the past few years for a number of reasons. In-breeding among the tigers here is one reason. Other reasons include human incursions, shortage of food, and migration of tigers to other areas. So we are looking at bringing tigers from other reserves not only to increase the actual population but also to improve the gene pool of the tigers here,” Sinha added.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve is situated in the Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal and covers an approximate area of 760 square kilometers under which 314 square kilometers is the actual wildlife sanctuary, while the rest is a reserve forest. While the forest department took over this area in 1866, it was only in 1983 that Buxa was notified as a wildlife sanctuary under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.
There are 38 forest villages in Buxa and 49 fringe villages and the main source of employment for the locals comes from the 40 tea gardens around Buxa. Sinha said that this programme been tried before only in two other sanctuaries in the country — in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. In Sariska, the project was unsuccessful, and petered out soon after it began.
Meanwhile, Sinha said that the recent floods in North Bengal have not led to any animal deaths, but submerged many areas of some sanctuaries located in the region. “We have not heard of any animal deaths so far. The animals seem to have migrated to higher areas to avoid the floods. Communication has, however, been disrupted with many roads and bridges in the area having been submerged,’’ he said.