Buxa's bane - low tiger density - may prove to be its boon as foresters hunt for a suitable home for tiger cubs that have been abandoned or orphaned. "Apart from Kaziranga, the northeast doesn't have a healthy tiger density in any of its reserves. The same is the case with Buxa. So, these could be preferred sites for the reintroduction," said Y V Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, adding the exercise was inspired by the ongoing Caspian tiger reintroduction campaign (to repopulate Iran and Russian jungles).
So far, only Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have reported abandoned cubs. S B Mondal, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said the Centre was welcome to reintroduce tigers in Buxa. Though a recent study based on fecal DNA analysis by Guwahati-based NGO Aaranyak projected the number of tigers in Buxa at 15, there have been no sightings to back the claim. Based on scat and pugmark analyses, forest officials believe tigers do frequent the park, but never settle down due to pressure from 37 villages within the park. Buxa has excellent connectivity with the larger tiger landscape at Manas Reserve in Assam and Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park, which causes big cats to disperse. Manas has seven to 10 Tigers while Royal Manas has a cat count of around 15.
However, not all wildlife experts are upbeat about the idea to reintroduce tiger cubs into the wild. "You must have infrastructure before carrying out such things. Nobody patrols or even visits low-density tiger reserves and not even the project tiger director. So how can you introduce a young or sub-adult tiger there? Inter-state tiger transfer is another hurdle," said Valmik Thapar.