Tiger conservation: After Panna reserve success, 6 big cats to be relocated in Bengal's Buxa from Assam

Tapping into the scientific and management skills gained from the successful tiger relocation exercise at Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, wildlife experts and forest officials have proposed the introduction of big cats in West Bengal's Buxa Tiger Reserve from Assam.

IANS March 29, 2017 16:42:35 IST
Tiger conservation: After Panna reserve success, 6 big cats to be relocated in Bengal's Buxa from Assam

Kolkata: Tapping into the scientific and management skills gained from the successful tiger relocation exercise at Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, wildlife experts and forest officials have proposed the introduction of big cats in West Bengal's Buxa Tiger Reserve from Assam.

A detailed project report (DPR), involving stakeholders from the Bengal forest department, Wildlife Institute of India and Global Tiger Forum (GTF), will be evaluated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Tiger conservation After Panna reserve success 6 big cats to be relocated in Bengals Buxa from Assam

Representational image. Reuters

"We plan to bring six tigers in the first year. Although we have received approval in principle from NTCA and MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment & Forests) that they are fine with tiger augmentation in BTR, now it is about the nitty-gritties. The DPR is likely to be cleared in April," state chief wildlife warden Pradeep Vyas told IANS.

Fringed by the forests of Bhutan and Assam, Buxa in north Bengal has not reported consistent sighting of tigers in nearly three decades.

The tiger introduction plan involves habitat improvement, prey augmentation and working with local stakeholders to mitigate possible human-tiger conflicts.

"Buxa reserve looks good in terms of habitat. We are encouraged by the scientific and management skills gained from Panna, although recovery of each site is different," WII scientist K Ramesh, who was involved in the Panna Tiger Recovery programme and in other tiger recovery efforts in the country and in Cambodia, told IANS.

"Not all six tigers will be dropped at one go," Ramesh said.

Ramesh said the initiative is a "dynamic" process that will evolve in accordance with the response after introducing the animals in a phased manner.

"Keeping in view of the response, every third year we will bring two more tigers to compensate uncertainties," pointed out Vyas.

Buxa Tiger Reserve, spanning 760.87 square kilometre, is situated in Alipurduar Sub-division of Jalpaiguri District, Bengal and is part of the Terai-Dooars ecosystem.

The reserve forest with a periphery of 330 kilometres is surrounded by numerous tea gardens and cultivated land of villages.

Because of the similarity in climate conditions and genetics, tigers from Assam were selected.

"Since the region is same, there may be genetic similarities. Tigers in Assam are also familiar with the moist deciduous forest and high rainfall conditions that exist in Buxa (Terai ecosystem)," explained Vyas.

Allaying concerns of prey base, Vyas stressed on prey augmentation programme that will be part of the relocation project.

"There is a good Sambhar (deer) population in neigbouring Jaldapara and Gorumara. So we have planned that in the first year itself, 50 of these animals will be introduced in Buxa," said Vyas.

In addition, locals have been consulted on the project and 'protection camps' are under process, Vyas informed.

Underscoring the importance of supporting the state government's efforts to introduce tigers at Buxa, Ramesh said it is important from the conservation point of view.

"It is important to restore areas like Buxa from the conservation point of view. It is how you manage it with proactive steps. If there are issues then they must be addressed," Ramesh added, referring to apprehensions voiced by a section of conservationists over the project.

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