IN317
Buxa Tiger Reserve (National Park)


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Buxa Tiger Reserve is located in the northeastern corner of Jalpaiguri district. It is about 180 km from the city of Jalpaiguri and 7 km from the district headquarers at Alipurduar. The northern boundary of the Reserve lies along the international border with Bhutan. The eastern side of the Reserve forms the interstate boundary with Assam, demarcated by River Sankosh. The western and southern sides are bounded by tea gardens and agricultural fields. The core area is about 38,500 ha, which comprises 26,000 ha area of Buxa Sanctuary and 11,700 ha area of Buxa National Park. The buffer zone comprises 37,500 ha. Buxa Tiger Reserve is located at the meeting ground of three major biogeographical provinces, (Rodgers and Panwar 1988) namely the Lower Gangetic Plains, Central Himalayas and the Brahmaputra Valley. The Reserve has immense ecological and geomorphological significance. It consists of Himalayan formations of Darjeeling gneiss at an altitude of 1,800 m, the Great Boundary Fall (Godawans) lies just south of it, followed by the Siwalik Hills. Most of the area of the Reserve lies on the plains. Only the northern tracts are hilly. Many rivers and streams intersect the Reserve, the important ones are the Rydak, Jainty, Bala and Dima. Every year, flash floods cause widespread damage to forest vegetation during the monsoon. Buxa Tiger Reserve was brought under Project Tiger in 1983 and became India’s fifteenth Tiger Reserve. Buxa Tiger Reserve has a rich floral diversity. It is mainly Moist Tropical Forest and has been subdivided into eight Sub-types of Champion and Seth (1968): Sal Forest, Moist Mixed/Dry Mixed Forest, Wet Mixed Forest, Semi-evergreen Forest, Evergreen Forest, Hill Forest, Savannah Forest and Riverine Forest (Forest Department Working Plan). The most common tree species which is of great economic and ecological importance is Sal Shorea robusta. In areas adjoining rivers, Albizia lebbek, Dalbergia sissoo and Acacia catechu are the most common species, while on the hills are Morus laevigata, Ailanthus grandis, Zizyphus sp., Careya arborea and Butea monosperma. The Savannah forests is characterized by tropical trees such as Careya arborea, Dillenia pentagyna and Syzygium cumini.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: More than 227 bird species were reported from this IBA site by Allen et al. (1996). But, if we include the birds seen earlier by Inglis et al. (1918-1920), Stevens (1923-1925), Inglis (1952-69), Law (1953) and Sanyal (1995), the total comes to 359 species for the IBA. During a one-year BNHS study, 221 species were sighted by Prakash et al. (2001). The Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, an Endangered species, was earlier seen by Inglis et al. (1918-1920) but not by Allen et al. (1996) or Prakash et al. (2001). Similarly, the following species were not sighted in recent surveys: Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis, Pallas’s Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis, Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica, White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis, Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre and Finn’s Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus. A part of Buxa Tiger Reserve lies in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA 130) where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 21 restricted range species. Red-breasted Hill Partridge Arborophila mandelli, Yellow-vented Warbler Phylloscopus cantator, Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis and White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri are found in the higher reaches of Buxa. Most parts of Buxa are plains and would come under the Assam Plains Endemic Bird Area (EBA 131) where three species are considered restricted range. Only the Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris has been reported from this IBA, although earlier even the Manipur Bush Quail was found at the foot hills. As described by Allen et al. (1997), the type specimens were procured in Goalpara. Primrose has seen this bird not far from the Torsa and Shebbeare also believes he has seen it. There is a ragged skin in the British Museum said to have been procured in the Bhutan Duars. This is evidently the bird mentioned by Thornhill as shot by him at Alipurduar (Inglis et al. 1918-1920). The site is situated in the transition zone between Biome-8 and Biome-12 therefore, bird species representing Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest and Indo-Gangetic Plains are sighted in the Reserve. Owing to wide distribution of bird species of Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone), many birds from this biome are also found in this IBA site. In winter, some species from Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane Alpine and Tibetan) and Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forests) are also reported from this IBA site. Altogether, this site has avian elements from five biomes. Prakash et al. (2001) recorded 32 species of raptors, including the two Critically Endangered Gyps vultures. Allen et al. (1996) report five species of hornbills (Indian Grey Ocycercos birostris, Oriental Pied Anthracoceros albirostris, Great Pied Buceros bicornis, Rufous-necked Aceros nipalensis and Wreathed Aceros undulatus). Some species of conservation interest seen by them are: Chestnutbreasted Partridge Arborophila mandellii (5 individuals), Rufousnecked Hornbill (one pair), Beautiful Nuthatch Sitta formosa (2-4 birds), Long-billed Wren-Babbler Rimator malacoptilus (one pair), Black-headed Shrike-Babbler Pteruthius rufiventer (small numbers), Yellow-throated Fulvetta Alcippe cinerea (small party), White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri (small flocks) and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill Paradoxornis ruficeps (flocks of >30). Thirteen species belonging to the Vulnerable category and 11 belonging to the Near Threatened category are found in Buxa, some with significant numbers.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: As the name indicates, Buxa is famous for its population of Tiger Panthera tigris. According to official records there were 32 Tigers in 1997 in the Reserve (Jain 2001). Buxa is an essential forest corridor for Tigers and Asian Elephants Elephas maximus moving between the forests of northwest Assam and southern Bhutan (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). Other larger vertebrates are Leopard Panthera pardus, Gaur Bos frontalis, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Hog Deer Axis porcinus and Wild Boar Sus scrofa.

According to Jain (2001), there are 73 species of mammals, 76 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians. This government document also claims 390 species of birds from this Reserve.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Grazing; Poaching; Fuel wood collection; Fire.

This small reserve forest is under tremendous anthropogenic pressure, with nearly 0.2 million people living in the vicinity, along with their 12,500 livestock. To overcome these threats, the Forest Department of West Bengal has started a Participatory Forest Management System, involving people living in and around the Reserve, under its Forest Resources Management Policy. A World Bank supported Ecodevelopment Project has been implemented in the Reserve to reduce the dependency of local people on the natural resources of the Reserve. Ban on the lifting of boulders from the rivers is a contentious issue and needs immediate resolution so the local people are not affected and river ecology is not disturbed. Timber smuggling with the connivance of the lower staff of the Forest Department is a big problem and occurs from time to time despite strict action. The Indian Railways plan to convert the existing metre-gauge railway track between Siliguri and Guwahati via Alipurduar and Koch Bihar in North Bengal into broad gauge line. This will involve cutting a large number of trees and also formation of a more effective barrier for wildlife movement. An increasing number of faster trains would mean more death to wildlife, especially the Asian Elephant. Crop damage by elephants is one of the major problems. The Forest Department, under Project Elephant, has enclosed many settlements and villages by electric fences but maintenance of the fence is not easy.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Buxa Tiger Reserve (National Park). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/08/2019.