Big cat spotted in Buxa reserve
Senior Forest Officials Call It A ‘Momentous Event’
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Kolkata: A tiger encounter was the last thing on his mind as beat officer Manindra Chandra Sarkar ambled down a narrow jungle path searching for scat in the Chuniajhora beat of Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) on March 24.
A short, sharp noise alerted him and, as he took cover behind a bush, a Bengal tiger emerged from a clearing with a deer carcass dangling from its jaws. The nervous guard managed to reach out for his camera and click a few snaps before scurrying back to safety. The sighting, which is extremely rare in the north Bengal forest, made conservationists and forest officials heave a sigh of relief. They pointed out that it was a momentous event as a tiger had never been photographed in the Buxa reserve.
“The sighting happened after a considerably long period. Even though pugmarks are seen and roars heard occasionally, the big cat has not been seen here for quite some time. So, this is extremely encouraging and we are sure there are several more tigers in the adjoining beats. Also, this is probably the first time that a Buxa tiger has been photographed in the forest,” said Subhankar Sengupta, deputy field director, BTR.
The park is estimated to have a dozen tigers and it is believed that they keep crossing over to the extension of the forest in Bhutan, which has made sightings rare.
On March 24, guards were collecting scat and other evidence for the tiger census, which is currently under way. Beat officer Sarkar was leading the group and had moved ahead.
While scanning a pugmark impression pad that had been laid in the Chuniajhora beat, he heard an animal crossing the road. Soon, he discovered a carcass of a cow lying nearby. Moving still closer, he suddenly confronted a tiger, which had been lurking near the kill. Sarkar stayed calm, reached out for his camera and clicked from barely 50 yards before the big cat disappeared.
He rushed back and informed the range officer who, in turn, passed on the news to Sengupta. Forest guards rushed to the spot and found pugmarks around the kill. “I instructed my guards and officers to run a thorough check of the area, which revealed several pugmarks on the impression pad. From its size, it appears that the tiger was either a female or a sub-adult male. The quality of the photographs was, however, not satisfactory. We are studying them for more clues,” said Sengupta. The deputy conservator had clicked a tiger at the Mahananda sanctuary in 1999.
Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) S B Mondol said Buxa could have 12-15 tigers. “There was never a doubt that the forest had tigers. The only worry was that sightings had become rare. So, this is very reassuring,” said Mondol.
Under the 2004 census, Buxa had 27 tigers. The number might have been incorrect due to the dated census methods, he said. “The new method, a combination of scat analysis and pugmarks, is far more accurate. The actual number is likely to be around 15,” added Mondol.