Buxa home to 15 big cats, claims Assam lab
TNN, Sep 29, 2010, 04.14am IST
KOLKATA: Even as big cats dwindle across most big reserves around the country, triggering serious concern, the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal can now claim to be an honourable exception. A DNA analysis of tiger faeces in the north Bengal forest reveals that it has 15 tigers. Carried out by the genetics laboratory of Aaranyak, a wildlife organization in Guwahati, the study says Buxa has nine females and three males. The gender of three others couldn't be identified from the samples.
The Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal has at least 15 tigers, a first-of-its-kind study by a wildlife body said on Tuesday. "Our study shows that there are nine females and three males in the forest. We are trying to ascertain the gender of the rest," said head of the wildlife genetics laboratory of Aaranyak, Udayan Borthakur. The researchers used DNA-based analysis to estimate the population from faecal samples of tigers in the reserve. Samples were also sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Hyderabad and its report is awaited. "We are waiting for the CFSL report but now it has been conclusively proved that tigers exist at Buxa. Sightings had happened in the recent past and we were confident that the DNA test would prove that. This certainly augurs well for the future of the tiger in India and the state," said Subhankar Sen Gupta, deputy director, Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Faecal samples collected by the Buxa authorities were handed over to Aranyak earlier this year. "We used genetic markers to identify tiger scat from other sympatric carnivores such as leopards," said Borthakur, who runs the society for conserving biodiversity in the northeast region.
"DNA-based techniques of identification of individual tigers might be considered as a practical and low-cost option for population estimation and long-term monitoring of this species in protected areas of the country," said Borthakur.
The DNA sampling technique is also being used at Sunderbans. "This is a scientific way of identifying the number of tigers. Let us hope our finding is corroborated by the CFSL," said Firoz Ahmed, wildlife biologist at Aaranyak.
Buxa Tiger Reserve is contiguous with the Manas Tiger Reserve of Assam and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan in terms of area. The discovery was greeted with cheer across wildlife circles. "This is indeed great news for conservation. Let us hope that the study has been done scientifically and is error-free. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the Sunderban report," said Joydip Kundu, wildlife activist.