Wildlife & Biodiversity

Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve to get more grassland cover

Increasing grassland will mean a rise in tigers’ prey base, leading to better chances of survival

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Friday 23 August 2019
Officials at Bihar's Valmiki Tiger Reserve are working on increasing the grassland cover in the reserve. Photo: Getty Images

The grassland cover of Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) is set to increase. The move will help in better managing the habitat for prey animals, crucial to the survival of tigers.

The 290 hectares (ha) of new grassland — 150 ha in Division 1 of VTR and 140 ha in Division 2 — will add to an existing 1,400 ha.

The new patch will come up on the reserve’s hilly terrain, said VTR Field Director HK Roy. Tigers are rarely spotted in such areas, which lack deer to prey on.

“We are cleaning the bushes of unwanted species like mikenia, eupatorium and phoenix and removing or uprooting weeds to convert large fields into a new grassland,” Roy added.

The work be completed in phases by next year.  The proposal to develop more grassland was approved by the Centre and the state.

The increase in grassland will arguably provide a better environment for the tigers — VTR had 31 of them in 2018, up from 8 in 2010. There were also 10-12 cubs.

“Increasing grasslands in VTR is a right step for tiger conservation,” Santosh Tiwari, director of ecology at Bihar’s Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said.

Herbivores, which big cats such as tigers prey on, depend on such grassland. An increase their cover thus help in supporting the prey population, in turn increasing the chances of the carnivores’ survival.

Improvement in grassland coverage in the last one decade has primarily contributed to an increase in VTR’s tiger population, according to forest officers.

The increase in VTR’s tiger count indicated a friendly wildlife environment and a healthy forest, DK Shukla, chief conservator of forests, said. VTR placed fifth in India’s latest tiger census for its management practices, he pointed out.

VTR is spread over 899 square kilometres (89,900 ha) in West Champaran district, bordering Nepal to its north and Uttar Pradesh to its west.

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