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Number of Tigers declining in Bengal

The authorities of the Buxa Tiger Reserve in North Bengal estimate the number of Royal Bengal tigers in the reserved areas at 32, as per the census in 1997, a notch above the figure of 31, as per the 1995 census. However, the wildlife enthusiasts are sceptical about this claim.

Amal Dutta, chairman of the Alipurduar Nature Club, and NGO, alleged that there were only eight to 12 tigers in the Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTA).

He added that only six pug marks were reported during the last census. in support of his allegation in respect of the declining number of tigers, Mr. Dutta said hardly any case of cattle-ligting was reported from the hard-core areas of the BTR.

Rather, the number of cattle, estimated to be about 1.5 lakh is registering a gradual increase. Similar is the position of deer in the Buza Tiger Reserve area. Moreover, no NGO was associated with the census work in 1997. Therefore, no one was there to dispute the tall claim of the BTR authorities.

Romesh Roy, the bare-foot leader of All-India Forward Bloc at Rajabhatkhawa in the reserved area, who is working in the area for the last three decades puts the number of tigers at 16. He described the Buxa Tiger Reserve project as a grand failure.

The dwellers in the forest villages even doubt the presence of a single tiger in the reserved area. Among the forest officers, sighting of even a single tiger is a joke.

Dr. S. Patel, Field Director of BTR admitted that there was problem in counting the exact number of tigers in the 76 sq km reserved area as it was bounded by Bhutan border on its northern side, Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam on its eastern side and as many as 49 sprawling 10 estates on its southern sides besides the adjoining jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. But he discounted the allegation of the NGOs in respect of the number of tigers.

Another problem, being faced by the BTR authorities, is of sizable number of plantation workers in 49 tea estates, each having about two to five thousand plantation workers, a population of about 1.86 lakh on its fringes and 36 forest villages within the reserved area.

With the help of liberal foreign grants and loan, the BTR authorities embarked on the ambitious scheme to get micro plan prepared for the forest villages within the reserved area.

An NGO, based in Kharadpur in South Bengal, was preferred at the reported initiative of Mr. Arin Ghosh, Chief Wildlife Warden, West Bengal. It was given Rs. 38 lakh in March 1997.

It was supposed to give one micro plan every month but it has submitted only three so far though the payment for all the 36 plans were made to it more than two years ago.

According to local experts, even these three micro plans are defective. They add that the Kharagpur based NGO was given preference despite its poor performance in South Bengal and opposition by the North Bengal forest and wildlife officers.

The local wildlife lover also allege that in the name of ecological development of the reserved area, the BTR authorities embarked upon building construction for the staff.

Interestingly enough, the BTR has published six-page calender for the current year on art paper. It is for the first time that such an exercise was undertaken by the BTR since it came into existence in 1983, following the launching of the Save Tiger Project at seven places in the country.

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