One of the pictures taken by beat officer Sarkar in Buxa
Alipurduar, March 30: Buxa can breathe a little easy: a Royal Bengal tiger — or something that resembles the magnificent beast — has been spotted in the reserve and captured on film too.
One tiger in a tiger reserve may not appear too much of a big deal to the uninitiated but it is a milestone moment for north Bengals Buxa, where no big cat has been spotted in the past 40 years.
Certainly not since 1983, when the reserve, 8km from Alipurduar town in Jalpaiguri district and contiguous to Bhutan, was formally inducted into Project Tiger, Indias flagship conservation programme.
All these years, all that Buxa Tiger Reserve had to justify its moniker was a few growls in the dead of the night — presumably a hungry cat making a kill — scat and an estimate that the area housed at least a dozen big cats.
The ignominy — imagine calling yourself a tiger reserve with no tiger to show — appears to have ended now, thanks to beat officer Manindra Sarkar who has come up with a grainy image of a golden creature.
Sarkars colleagues say he caught the tiger on camera when it turned around and made a royal walkout. Sarkar was on tiger census duty that started in early February.
Its indeed a happy day as for the first time in the history of the tiger reserve, we have been able to record direct evidence of tigers in Buxa. So far, our staff had to be satisfied with the pugmarks, scat and distant roars. But this is the first close encounter, said S.B. Mondol, the chief wildlife warden, in Calcutta.
He added that the exact location from where the photograph was taken was not being disclosed for the safety of the animal.
According to the reserves deputy field director, Subhankar Sengupta, Sarkar had gone to investigate a bush in which he suspected an animal was lurking.
When he approached the bush from behind, he saw the tiger, about five to six years old, come out, Sengupta said. The tiger began walking away and when it turned around once, Sarkar managed to take two snaps, the official added. He said the foresters later collected plaster casts of the pugmarks.
Animesh Bose, the secretary of the Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, said: We are happy. No one had been able to photograph a tiger even before it was declared a tiger reserve.