| Boost in numbers |
The tiger count has recorded a roaring increase at the Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve (VTR), going up from eight to 22 in the past four years according to environment and forests minister P.K. Shahi.
Speaking on the budgetary demand of his department during the post-lunch session of the Assembly, Shahi said: “Earlier, tigers in the reserve zone were counted on the basis of pugmarks — an old method. But the government has installed cameras to capture their movement and count tigers with more accuracy.”
The Telegraph had reported about the rising trend of tigers at VTR in north Bihar’s West Champaran on September 20, 2013.
Even as the BJP led by Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav walked out from the House protesting against what he described as Shahi’s convoluted manner of speaking on the issue, the latter dwelt at length on how former chief minister Nitish Kumar and his successor Jitan Ram Manjhi have been sensitive to wildlife and forest cover.
“Bihar was left with barely seven per cent forest cover after Jharkhand was carved out. Thanks to Nitish initiating a movement to increase green cover and Manjhi following it up, the state has so far got 12.86 per cent of its area covered with forests,” Shahi said.
He said the state was heading towards achieving a target of 17 per cent forest cover by 2017. “According to the Union ministry of forest and environment, the plains and hilly regions should have 20 and 33 per cent forest covers, respectively. The manner in which we are working to increase the forest cover will ensure that we achieve the stipulated target in a short period of time.”
Apart from tigers, the minister said, panthers, the number of leopards and rhinos too have gone up at VTR.
In response to several members raising the issue of depleting number of elephants in the state, Shahi held the Central Zoo Authority’s (CZA’s) directives responsible. “It had been an age-old practice in Bihar to domesticate elephants. But the CZA has described the elephant a social animal, which prefers to live in herds and has asked the people not to domesticate it.”
The minister, however, said the elephant was associated with religious faith and the state government had written to CZA to allow the state to have elephants at Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park. “At present, the zoo has one elephant. We have promised to the central authority that we will raise the number to two or more in the near future,” he said.
Replying to some members’ suggestion that VTR or other forest areas be cordoned off, Shahi said: “There does not exist a practice of cordoning off forest area in any part of the country and the world. It is not feasible simply because of the size of the forest areas. For example, the VTR is spread across 901sqkm.”