Agartala: Threatened by poachers, climate change and shrinking habitats, the wild Indian Bison or Gaurs, the largest among wild cattle around the world, has been on the ‘Red’ list of endangered animals for long. However, recent births of at least five calves in Tripura’s Trishna sanctuary in Rajbari have given new hope to the herds found in the Northeastern state.

Five calves were seen in the core areas of the sanctuary during a census conducted by the forest officials in March this year. They were seen healthy and moving with the mothers in a group, Nirad Baran Debnath, Wildlife Warden of the state told PTI.

Debnath said a census conducted in the month of March last year found that there were 105 bison in the sanctuary.

With the newborn calves, the total number would go up to 110.

The Gaur has been listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List since 1986.

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Worldwide, the population of `Gaurs which can grow to a height of 7-and-a-half feet weighing nearly 1,500 kgs, is down to a mere 21,000, a decline of 70 per cent over three generations. The animal is believed to have been hunted to extinction in neighbouring Bangladesh and in the island of Sri Lanka. Besides South Asia, the Indian Bison is also found in Southeast Asia.

Debnath said several measures to protect the biodiversity including growing a special kind of Bamboo, locally known as Kaillai, which is a favourite food of the bison, has created proper habitat for the endangered species.

Chief Wildlife Warden Rameswar Das said steps to protect Trishna sanctuary from poachers has seen the population rising.

The erection of barbed wire fencing along the India-Bangladesh border which marks one end of the 164 square km Rajbari reserve forest, has particularly helped as poachers from the neighbouring nation were particularly fond of hunting the huge wild cattle.

Das said increasing the strength of the forest protection force has also proven to be a deterrent.

The 30-sq km bison reserve within the reserve forest was established as Trishna sanctuary a decade ago with funds from the Centre to protect the endangered species.

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“The bison reserve aims at ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of bison, promotion measures for reduction of man-animal conflicts in the core area and strengthening protection activities for the bovine from poachers,” Das explained.

Meanwhile, a 7-sq km area of the bison reserve has been fenced off and grazing land developed there, he said, adding that a watchtower was recently constructed for travellers.

More watch towers will also be constructed in the area for tourists.

The area, now covered with green grass, has emerged as a natural grazing pasture for bison. With Bamboo abundantly available in this sanctuary, foresters say the herd’s food security issue has been “well managed.”

However, to help the herds grow and prosper, officials feel it is important to “involve local people in the forest management process.”

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