Tiger versus tiger in battle over den
Issue Date: Tuesday , January 1 , 2008
RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR
Jaipur, Dec. 31: Big cat is fighting big cat in Ranthambore and the not-so-fit are being forced to stray into nearby forests and villages in search of prey.
A "fight for territorial supremacy" has been raging in the Rajasthan tiger park for a while, eclipsing the good news that six cubs were sighted this year and the total big cat count is up to 40 from 26 in 2005.
Forest officials said the virtual shrinking of "prey bases" caused by increasing numbers was the reason for the tigers intruding into human habitat, scaring people and sometimes even killing them.
"This year, six cubs have been sighted. In the last two years, 14 cubs were seen in Ranthambore, proving that breeding has been successful," said Rajpal Singh, a member of the Rajasthan wildlife board.
"But the cubs, which have become sub-adults, are finding it difficult to develop their own areas of influence in the park. It is literally a fight for territorial supremacy among the tigers in the park."
The officials said the problem was not that cubs were moving out of their parents' area of influence and trying to establish their own "prey bases" that was part of growing up but that too many were trying to do it at the same time.
So, despite there being enough deer, cheetals and sambhars in the park to feed all, the younger tigers were being bullied by the stronger and mature ones and barred from hunting prey.
"It is usually the male sub-adults (between two and four years) who have to fight it out and wander away as older male tigers are lenient towards young females," Singh said.
"In this territorial power game, it is the weaker ones who stray out and often lose their way. After migrating long distances, they cannot find their way back and end up in villages on the outskirts. There they prey on livestock, prompting villagers to call in poachers to kill them."
Last year, a female cub wandered into the nearby Kailadevi sanctuary but was fortunate to find its way back after a few days.
But Yuvraj, a young adult missing for the last two months, was not so lucky. Villagers found it dead in the Lakheri forests near Indergarh, although the district administration had announced a reward of Rs 1,100 to anyone who gave clues to its whereabouts.
"Villagers are given Rs 5,000 if a tiger kills a buffalo and Rs 3,000 for a cow, but they tip off poachers rather than forest officials as they get more money," Singh said.
Trade in tigers is illegal. But poachers continue to kill as a single animal fetches up to $50,000 in the international market.
There are reports of two more tigers straying out of Ranthambore, including one from the Maigaon region. Another one that wandered into Darrah sanctuary was found dead on railway tracks.
To check the problem of straying animals, the state government is planning to incorporate nearby sanctuaries into the tiger reserve area of Ranthambore.
There is also a proposal to relocate some tigers to the Sariska sanctuary over the next three months, Singh said.
For The Tiger
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