Jumbo cabinet on tiger trail
19 Dec 2008, 0410 hrs IST, Neha Shukla, TNN
LUCKNOW: Being at the helm of 16 `tiger search' operations in their career spanning over three decades, Pawankali and Gangakali are finding the two-and-a-half-year-old tiger difficult to handle. It is literally teasing them on their faces with his you-are-smart-but-I-am-smarter acts.
The two female elephants came out of Bartauli jungle downcast on Thursday, joined in tow by their day-old-partners in mission, 28-year-old Sunder and 50-year-old Roopkali. The combing did not yield result on sixth straight day of the search conducted within the fringes of Lucknow. "Will this tiger ever be caught", the thought, by now, could be baffling for Dudhwa's specialised elephant brigade.
"Gangakali is furious, if she gets a chance she will throttle the tiger," are the words doing the rounds among the forest cadre at the spot. The tiger had jumped in front of her on several occasions during the search operations in village clusters under Gosainganj and Mohanlalganj.
Pawankali and Gangakali, both aged around 60 years were called for help when the tiger reached Gauriaghat village in Gosainganj area on Saturday. Their mahouts, Idris Khan and Nasir Khan vouch for the love that the two share for each other. Be it sharing the sugarcane-diet or handling the on-going operation, their camaraderie is commendable.
However, the officials were not so hopeful of Sunder and Roopkali who joined the operation on Wednesday. Roopkali is older and dominating as well. But, that does not pass them off as novices. They have handled many operations in Dudhwa, Pilibhit and Kishanpur. It is for the first time that they have come so far.
However, going by the department's very own observation about the animal, it is getting cleverer by each passing day. It is not returning to his kills, staying away from the trap and he is dodging the elephants.
The mission is getting impossible for the `Operation Tiger' team day by day. And, the tiger could be heading for a different fate! The animal was not spotted even once on Thursday in Bartauli scrublands where he made half a dozen appearances before the forest team a day before. It also gave its full glimpse to the officials atop elephants by running in an open field.
Contrarily to the fact that repeated failures should have solemnised the will to capture the animal `alive', combing operations on Thursday were called off before sunset. According to forest official, the day went without any sighting of the animal and there was no point that operations could have continued in the patch of dense vegetation at Bartauli in Mohanlalganj.
There is no denying that the animal could have backtracked to Barabanki since he was not seen at all in the area. The pugmarks also confused the officials at the spot. "Though we can see the outgoing pugmarks clearly, it is bit difficult to say if the animal has returned back to the patch," shared an official.
The trail that began on November 11
* Started from Deoria range of Pilibhit
* Moved over to village clusters in Shahjahanpur
* Stayed in Shahjahanpur for a week
* Moved over to Sitapur
* Killed cattle in villages of Sidhauli and Mahmoodabad
* Wandered for a week here
* Entered Barabanki villages
* Pugmarks found in Vahlidpur and Saili Kiratpur
* After five days surfaced in Gosainganj (on December 13)
* Wandered and made kills in village clusters within 5 kms
* Presence reported from Mohanlalganj on Wednesday
* Present location is not known