West Bengal has the best and worst tiger reserves

West Bengal has the best and worst tiger reserves

Ananya Dutta
Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

KOLKATA: The two tiger reserves in West Bengal represent the best and the worst in the evaluation of Project Tiger as was revealed at the All India Meet for Tiger Reserve Directors at Sariska over the weekend.

While the National Tiger Conservation Authority has listed the Sunderbans as a reserve with high tiger density, Buxa has been included as one of the seven reserves where the numbers are critically low. According to 2007 census figures, there are 174 tigers in the 2,585 sq. km. of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve, while in the 759 sq. km. of forestland in Buxa there are probably no more than 12 .

“In a 2006-07 survey, no tigers were sighted through the camera traps that we set up in Buxa, although we did find some pug marks and faecal matter,” said Dr Y. V. Jhala, a faculty at the Wildlife Institute of India.

According to the State’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Atanu Raha, the reason for the difference in the tiger population of the two reserves is the geographical terrain. “While Sunderbans enjoys a natural advantage of being a remote area, Buxa is surrounded by habitation and is frequently infiltrated,” he said.

Thirty-seven tribal villages have been inhabited within the reserve’s demarcated area since the days of the Raj, said R. P. Saini, director of the Buxa Tiger Reserve. “The main reason for the low tiger density is the constant disturbance from villagers who exploit the forests for commercial reasons,” he said.

Inadequate grassland to support the prey base was another cause of concern for conservationists. Grassland was scanty even when Buxa was declared a reserve in 1983. A more recent peril to the grassland is erosion.



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