Tiger moved to Sariska
Maseeh Rahman in Delhi
Tuesday July 1, 2008
Wildlife conservationists are monitoring a five-year-old tiger that was moved to a new natural habitat last Saturday in a groundbreaking effort to reintroduce tigers into a famed game sanctuary 125 miles south of Delhi.
Rajasthan's Sariska forest was once the royal preserve of the Maharajah of Alwar, where Indian princes and British Raj elite went on elaborate tiger hunts. It was turned into a popular wildlife reserve, attracting thousands of tourists.
But three years ago Sariska became a shocking symbol of India's disastrous tiger conservation policy when it was revealed that not a single big cat had survived in the sanctuary. All had fallen victim to poachers and human encroachments.
The resulting furore forced the government to order a nationwide tiger census. A report this year showed the number of tigers in India down to around 1,400, less than half the population five years ago.
So the return of the tiger to Sariska at the weekend is seen as part of a new effort to ensure that India's national symbol does not become extinct. The Sariska tiger was flown in from Ranthambore, another sanctuary more than 150 miles to the south, which has around 40 tigers. It is not an adult, but is approaching the age when a tiger marks out its own exclusive territory.
"This is the first time anywhere in the world that a tiger has been relocated from one natural habitat to another," said PR Sinha, director of the Wildlife Institute of India. A team of experts is keeping vigil. If the tiger tries to head back to Ranthambore it will be returned to the enclosure. "It will be a slow process," said Sinha. "The idea is to get the tiger used to its new home ... then we plan to bring in four more tigers."