No wildfire in Bihar tiger reserve, says official

February 18th, 2009 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna/New Delhi Feb 18 (IANS) A senior official of Bihar’s forest department Wednesday refuted allegations that a wildfire had damaged portions of the core Project Tiger area in the state’s Valmiki reserve, even as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said they had sought an urgent report on the extent of damage.
“This is a false report. I don’t know what was the intention behind it,” B.N. Jha, additional principal chief conservator of forests and Bihar’s chief wildlife warden told IANS. He was referring to reports of a fire raging for 10 days in the Valmiki reserve in West Champaran district.

However, Rajesh Gopal, the NTCA’s member secretary, said an urgent fax had been sent to the forest department to ascertain if the fire had indeed caused damage and if there was threat to wildlife.

“We have not got a reply yet and hope to receive one soon,” Gopal said.

The wildfire, suspected to have been ignited by poachers and the timber mafia, was reportedly finally doused Monday.

However, Jha denied the news, saying it was a “regular ground fire” and it was natural for such occurrences especially since the reserve was populated by deciduous trees.

“This is not like the wildfires of Australia. The damage here is to dried grass and weeds that is negligible or insignificant. And as far as I know only a 12 hectare patch caught fire three four days ago in Madanpur Range.”

Jha admitted that parts of the forest could have been damaged but there was no disturbance to wildlife.

The 900-sq km sanctuary is home to about 35 tigers according to the tiger census two years ago.

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