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Increase in prey base and forest cover: How Buxa tiger reserve turned a corner

The forest department on Saturday shared a camera trap picture of the tiger spotted at the East Damanpur range of the tiger reserve. The news delighted wildlife enthusiasts and ecologists.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
December 13, 2021 6:22:08 am
A four-member team of the forest department has reached Buxa to examine the area and evidence confirming the tiger presence.

An increase in the forest density and the big cat prey base, especially deer, had attracted a Royal Bengal tiger, a first such sighting in 23 years, to the Buxa reserve in Airpurduar district in north Bengal, said forest officials on Sunday.

They believed that a favourable habitat at the tiger reserve would invite more tigers, which had migrated to neighbouring Bhutan. The state shares a contiguous range of the protected area with Bhutan.

The forest department on Saturday shared a camera trap picture of the tiger spotted at the East Damanpur range of the tiger reserve. The news delighted wildlife enthusiasts and ecologists.

A four-member team of the forest department has reached Buxa to examine the area and evidence confirming the tiger presence.

Ravikant Sinha, a former head of the forest department, told The Indian Express that the sighting did not rule out the earlier presence of tigers in the reserve. “It was not true that tigers were not found in Buxa in the last 23 years. Pictorial evidence just confirms the tiger presence. Besides this, we had some other evidence that could prove the same,” he said.

Sinha explained that a reason why big cat was not spotted earlier was its shyness and instinct to avoid human beings.

“The forest department has of late relentlessly tried to increase the density of the jungle. A herd of deer was introduced to the forest so that tigers could find their food from the jungle. The movement of human beings was restricted specially in the core tiger reserve. These measures led to the success. As a result, tigers are now returning from Bhutan,” said Sinha.

Last year, a report released by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change said the Buxa reserve had no tiger and its infrastructure was found wanting. “Buxa needs to be rebuilt as a tiger habitat. Tigers may have been brought from Kaziranga,” it noted.

A senior forest official said, “Last year after the ministry report, we decided to bring in tigers from the Kaziranga reserve forest, but because of the Covid situation, we failed to do so. Now, we are thinking that tigers should be brought from Assam as soon as possible for breeding.”

State Forest Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said a decision whether to make the reserve a breeding centre would be taken after the report of the four-member team.

A few days ago, a pugmark was found near a river bank in Buxa. Later the tiger presence was confirmed after a trap camera captured it. Entry points to the reserve have now been closed for visitors.

Some villagers in the vicinity of the reserve were being evacuated so that the tiger was “at ease”, official sources said.

A forest department official had on Saturday said, “It was in 1998 that images of a Royal Bengal tiger were last captured at the reserve. A few days ago, tiger footprints were seen on the river bank in this area. After examination, forest officials and staff became convinced of the presence of a tiger. Thus, a trap camera was introduced in the East Damanpur Range.”

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