Wildlife & Biodiversity

Gaur back in Valmiki Reserve thanks to increase in grassland cover

At least 150 gaur in the reserve currently, according to information from camera traps

By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Monday 09 March 2020
A herd of Gaur. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Gaur (Bos Gaurus), the largest extant bovine in the world, have not only returned to Bihar’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), but are also breeding there due to an increase in grassland cover, officials have said.

A large number of gaur had been spotted in camera traps — a sign of improving biodiversity and a positive development for VTR, field director Hemkant Roy told Down To Earth on March 9, 2020.

“Gaur have been attracted to VTR due to the increase in grassland cover. Gaur are grassland specialists and their main food is grass,” Roy said.

He added that there were more than 150 gaur including calves, in VTR currently. “We will try and bring further improvement to the habitat so that these animals add to biodiversity,” he said.

VTR was set up in the early 1990s. It is spread over 899 square kilometres in Bihar’s West Champaran district, bordering Nepal’s Chitwan National Park to its north and Uttar Pradesh to its west.

Gaur, which are native to south and southeast Asia, had shifted to Chitwan a few years back due to grassland destruction in VTR. The species is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species since 1986. They are heavily built, with body weight varying between 400 and 1,200 kilogram.

In the last one decade, VTR had increased its grassland cover to 15 per cent from four per cent and had created 22 water holes to provide easy sources of water for wild animals within the reserve area, according to Roy.

“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 in their cover thus helps in supporting the prey population, in turn increasing the chances of the carnivores’ survival.

The increase in grassland will arguably provide a better environment for the tigers — VTR had 40 of them including nine cubs. It is up from eight in 2010.

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