The state forest department is banking on the Assam government as it makes a tiger augmentation plan for tiger population growth in the Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) in Alipurduar district. The department, however, failed to confirm if the tigers will be brought here form Assam. “There are enough tigers in north Bengal. We have taken some initiatives to increase the ratio of tigers in the region.

As part of this plan, we will get 12 tigers from Assam. The tigers will be brought in the BTR in helicopters,” forest minister Binay Barman has said. The forest department said the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has identified the BTR for the augmentation programme.

The number of tigers in the BTR has been a point of debate for the past few years. Though the forest department claims there are tigers in the reserve, there has hardly been any sighting of the big cats in the recent past. Given this fact, wildlife lovers and experts have raised questions on the tiger population there. “The state wildlife board has approved the plan to bring 12 tigers from the state of Assam.

The reserves in Assam have the same kind of flora and fauna like here,” Mr Barman said. According to him, there were Royal Bengal Tigers in the region. “We cannot tell the exact number of tiger, but there are Royal Bengal Tigers in the forests of north Bengal,” Mr Barman said.

It may be noted here that seven officials from the BTR had in November last gone to Madhya Pradesh where they underwent special training on herbivore management. “We are leaving no stone unturned to make the tiger augmentation a success. We are sending our officers to gain expertise on Herbivores.

We appeal to the local people to stand by us to make the project a success,” Mr Barman had said back said. According to him, tiger augmentation will bring the lost fame of the Buxa Tiger Reserve forest back. Buxa Tiger Reserve, where authorities last month conducted a count of the big cats, is located in the district of Alipurduar and was created as the 15th tiger reserve forest in India in 1983.

The BTR used to be known as the reserve that was home to at least 26 tigers in the seventies. While there are now doubts about the existence of such a large number of the big cats in the forest there, the state forest department has decided to start the tiger augmentation programme in the reserve forest in an effort to bring back the lost fame.