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Scat tests point to rise in Buxa tiger number

Alipurduar, Sept. 26: The number of tigers in Buxa has gone up from 15 in 2010 to at least 19 last year, according to scat analyses carried out by a central government laboratory in Hyderabad and an Assam-based NGO.

While the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad put the number of big cats in Buxa Tiger Reserve in 2011 at 20, the figure given by NGO Aranyak was 19.

The forest officers had collected scat samples from Buxa between January and March 2011 in the presence of NGO officials and wildlife activists. More than 400 samples had been collected, but 234 were sent for the tests.

R.P. Saini, the field director of the tiger reserve, said the foresters had received the test results from the Hyderabad centre and Aranyak last week. “The CCMB reports say Buxa has 20 tigers — 16 males and four females. Aranyak has put the number of male tigers at 15 and females at four.”

The forest officer said at least 30 tigers could sustain in Buxa. He said tigers might be lurking in the adjacent Bhutan forests also.

“Buxa shares a 65km border with Bhutan forests. There might be tigers in Bhutan also, but a final word can be said only after a scat analysis is conducted there. A beat officer had clicked the picture of a tiger in 2010 in the Hatipota range that abuts on the Bhutan forests.”

He said the CCMB report also said excrement of a particular tiger had been collected from the same spot in two consecutive years. The CCMB and Aranyak had analysed scat samples in 2010 also.

Although repeated scat analyses proved the presence of tigers in Buxa, environmentalists were never ready to believe the foresters’ claims. Wildlife activists said other than scat samples, scratch marks and sighting by the foresters, the Buxa authorities had no proof to show the existence of tigers in the reserve.

By “proof” the environmentalists were referring to the photographs of tigers. Although a beat officer had taken a tiger’s photograph in 2010, the picture was hazy.