VIEW: We need to try everything
1 Jul 2008, 0001 hrs IST
In a global first, a tiger has been shifted from the Ranthambore National Park to the tiger reserve in Sariska in an attempt to revive the latter.
The three-and-a-half-year-old tiger, which was airlifted to Sariska from the Ranthambore National Park in a chopper, is one of the only 1,400 surviving in the country.
The big cat's move is being seen as the first concrete step towards conserving the endangered species. The plan is to relocate four more tigers over the next two years, looking to increase the entire tiger population of the park to 21.
Initial reports suggest that the tiger has settled in well, killing its first prey on Saturday. Experts say this is a good sign, indicating that the tiger has recovered from the initial shock that it would have got into after tranquillisation.
Any attempt to save a species from extinction is worth pursuing. There are few tigers left in the world. It's imperative that the tiger population across the world goes up.
It is with this goal that tigers are being relocated to Sariska, which is, after all, a habitat that is tiger friendly. There is no reason why, with better policing, tigers can't thrive in Sariska.
The same government is responsible for both the thriving tiger population in Ranthambore and the lack of tigers in Sariska.
It is hardly an impossible task for them to replicate Ranthambore's success in Sariska.
But tigers do need space to breed. Sariska is an established tiger habitat that suffers from a shortage of tigers.
That's reason enough to introduce more tigers to Sariska. There are also ways to tackle the problem of poaching. In Kerala, for instance, poachers-turned-forest rangers have been successful in reducing the incidence of poaching.
More recently, in Madhya Pradesh, former dacoits have been hired as tourist guides because of their detailed knowledge of the area, flora and fauna.
The world is watching this rehabilitation exercise with interest, as it has never been done anywhere else. There is no reason why the exercise cannot be successfully implemented.
COUNTER VIEW: Moving tigers is a bad idea
1 Jul 2008, 0001 hrs IST
There is too much hype and little substance in the so-called experiment to move five tigers from their habitat in Ranthambore to the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan to reintroduce the big cat there.
Translocation of wildlife is a practice that's adopted by wildlife sanctuaries in many parts of the world, but usually for different reasons.
Translocation to reintroduce a species in a place where it had gone locally extinct would be a bad idea because the uprooted animal is vulnerable to injury en route, it would have to hunt for food in unfamiliar territory, it would be separated from its herd and for all these reasons would be dangerously stressed.
There are other, more viable reasons why wild animals are shifted. In the case of elephants in Kenya and South Africa, when local elephant populations — because of growth in numbers, and not loss of habitat — began to forage for food outside their habitat, destroy-ing crops and stored grain, authorities deci-ded to move some of them to less densely populated areas to redistribute numbers, that too in large family groups to preserve their social structure.
So they don't undergo much upheaval except for the travel; they settle down in the new home with relatively little discomfort.
In the case of Sariska, the attempt is to reintroduce tigers in a sanctuary where poachers have killed off most big cats, undetected and undeterred.
The remaining tigers probably died of loss of habitat and trauma. What ought to have been done to preserve tiger numbers in Sariska was to crack down on poaching, prevent encroachment and destruction of tiger habitat areas and restrict visitor footfalls.
None of this was done. Timely intervention and strict regulation could have saved Sariska from becoming the no-tiger zone it is today.
Also, Sariska is getting more congested despite being designated a "reintroduced tiger zone". The two temples, a fort and Sariska Palace continue to attract visitors.
And a state highway cuts through the reserve with heavy vehicular traffic. Sariska's story is frightening. Leave the big cats where they belong, safe and sound.