Floodwaters threaten wildlife at Valmiki Tiger Reserve in Bihar

Patna: Wildlife at the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) in Bihar has come under threat with floodwaters entering the reserve area. The VTR, which is the lone tiger reserve in the state, currently has 37 tigers.

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Forest department officials said floodwaters from the swirling Gandak river have inundated parts of the grassland at the tiger reserve which could prompt the animals to flee the region in search of safe shelter. Authorities are now keeping a close watch on the wildlife through drone cameras.

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“Floodwaters have inundated parts of the tiger reserve but our teams are deployed in the areas and keeping a close eye on the movements of the animals,” divisional forest officer, Valmiki Tiger Reserve, Gourav Ojha said on Tuesday. “No animals have strayed out of the tiger reserve so far but we are very much alert.”

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The VTR which is spread over 899 square kilometres near the Indo-Nepal border in the West Champaran district has been ranked the fifth best tiger reserve in India. It is home to various animals such as sloth bear, leopard, Indian bison, hyena, wild dogs, several species of deer and antelopes, leopard cat, wild cat, fishing cat, wild boar, flying fox, serow, civets and flying squirrels.

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Forest department officials said the increased grassland at the tiger reserve has seen a rise in the number of bison which resulted in growth of tiger population as this increased the habitats for prey animals. According to VTR officials, the number of tigers was only eight in 2010 which has now gone up to 37 now.

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Floods have also made things difficult for the human population in large parts of the state. On Monday, a doctor and compounder were washed away in the strong currents of the floodwaters in Saran district while they were going to their clinic. Reports said they were crossing the road to reach their clinic when they were washed away by the strong currents.

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Soon after getting information, a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team rushed to the spot to rescue them but they are yet to be traced. According to a report of the Bihar disaster management department, floods have affected 5.63 million population settled across 14 districts of north Bihar and claimed 13 lives although unofficial reports say the death toll is much higher.

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Agriculture minister Prem Kumar said the floodwaters have also damaged standing crops planted in 766,000 hectares of land. “We will provide relief to the farmers after making proper assessment when the floodwaters subside,” the minister said.

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At present, all the major rivers are flowing over danger marks in the state and the worst hit are the regions falling in the north Bihar. The regular breaches in embankments of rivers have made life much difficult for the affected population who have taken shelter along the railway lines, roads or atop roofs.

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