The state forest department, in an extensive survey, had claimed that there were at least 12 tigers in the Buxa Tiger Reserve. The WII report, however, claimed there are only eight tigers in entire North Bengal, including Buxa.
The forest department is not taking it lying down and has shot off a letter to the Centre pointing out discrepancies in the WII report.
The WII has reported tiger occupancy on 596 square kilometre in northwest Bengal constituted by Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara and Jaldapara sanctuaries.
“This is incorrect as there is no tiger population in Gorumara National Park while four other known tiger habitats — Neora Valley National Park, Mahananda Sanctuary, Kurseong Division and Coochbehar Division — have not been taken into account. According to our assessment, tigers occupy at least 1,000 square kilometre in North Bengal,” said S S Bist, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife).
WII and and the National Tiger Conservation Authority had presented the report on February 12 at New Delhi.
Forest officials said WII, in its analysis, has clubbed north Bengal with the northeast hills and Brahmaputra flood plains’ landscape.
Officials further claimed that estimating tiger population in north Bengal based on averages computed for the total landscape (including North East) is bound to give a lower estimate.
“We would have preferred if the WII carried out an exclusive analysis based on data collected from north Bengal,” said Bist.
The WII has not taken into account tigers below 1.5 years of age which could give rise to a lower count, an official said. Moreover, the WII is yet to complete the work for phase III of tiger census in North Bengal, he added.
The WII had also almost given up on conducting a tiger census in Sunderbans attributing the delay to a “difficult terrain”, a forest department official said.