Although India’s tiger count has taken a good leap in the last four years, its population in North Bengal has dropped drastically.
According to the 2014 tiger census report, the number of big cats in the forests of North Bengal has dipped from 20 in 2010 to just three in 2014.
During the same period, the Sunderbans saw a rise in tiger population, from 70 to 76.
The report, ‘Status of Tiger in India 2014’, stated that the big cat count jumped by 30% in the past four years. Interestingly, these figures only reveal the number of tigers in the country’s reserves and not the population that exists outside.
“The 76 tigers that the census data states is the population in the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. But there are tigers in South 24-Parganas division, too. Latest pictures captured through the camera trap technique show there are at least 106 tigers in the Sunderbans, including those in South 24-Parganas division. Images of cubs in South 24-Parganas division show the population is healthy and rising,” Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, a member of the state wildlife advisory board, said.
Similarly, in North Bengal, there are tigers that reside outside the Buxa Tiger Reserve such as the Jaldapara National Park.
Chief wildlife warden Ujjwal Bhattacharya said, “The National Tiger Conservation Authority counts tigers only in the reserves. The state has to make its own arrangements to count tigers which live outside the reserves.”
Wildlife enthusiasts raised an alarm over the declining tiger population in Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR). In 2012, the state forest department stated there were 20 tigers in the reserve. It was based on a report by Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology which did a DNA analysis on the scat samples.
In October 2013, the NTCA pulled up BTR officials asking it to back their claims with photographic evidences.
While a section of the wildlife experts questioned the procedure adopted for tiger count, others have said that the BTA figures are bloated.