Kolkata: Six tigers would be relocated to Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) in north Bengal from neighbouring Assam as part of a plan for augmentation of tiger population in the reserve which was approved by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
“The technical committee of the NTCA has given its approval for the augmentation of the tiger population in Buxa”, state Chief Wildlife Warden Pradeep Vyas told the media.
“Six tigers, two male and four female, would be relocated to BTR from neighbouring Assam”, he said.
Asked about the timeframe for their relocation, he said, “It may be done within this year”.
The big cats, to be airlifted, would be put in an enclosure for seven days for acclimatisation and after that those tigers would be released in the reserve.
Sighting of tiger was not reported for long in Buxa even as forest department claimed the presence of at least three tigers in BTR, which is located in Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri District.
The forest department had taken up tiger augmentation plan in Buxa-Jaldapara for which detailed project report was prepared in consultation with Wildlife Institute of India and Global Tiger Forum.
On whether relocation of tiger is feasible at Buxa where there was human disturbance, he said, “The technical committee of NTCA, which is its highest body, has given its approval for the plan”.
Vyas said, “Habitat improvement work is being done and steps are being initiated to improve the prey base and grassland to make the situation conducive for tiger relocation.”
On the existence of human settlements in BTR, he said, “If those people want to be relocated, we are ready to shift them and give them the package they are entitled to for the purpose”.
Vyas said that special protection camps were being set up to keep a vigil and monitor the situation in BTR.
Many tiger experts have, however, raised questions about the relocation of tigers at Buxa saying that it would not yield any fruitful result unless villages were shifted from the core areas of the tiger reserve.
“The relocation of wild tigers should only be considered when the factors, such as poaching and anthropogenic pressure, that have caused the low population and local extirpation of the species have been addressed”, wildlife conservationist Belinda Wright told the media.
“The tiger reserve has suffered from shortage of frontline staff, lack of protection, large-scale illegal grazing, forest fires, constant anthropogenic pressure, widespread tree felling, dolomite mining (largely across the border in Bhutan but which affects the landscape)”, Belinda who is also executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India, said.
“Twelve villages had existed in the core area of the Tiger Reserve and I am not sure if any of these have been successfully relocated”, she said adding that “armed poachers were seen in camera traps in Buxa in 2015”.
Commenting on the decision to relocate big cats in Buxa, Valmik Thapar, a tiger expert and conservationist said, “We have to find out the reasons as to why there is no tiger in Buxa”.
“Tigers have to be relocated only after solving the problem. Otherwise, no tiger will survive there”, he said.