Space crunch for tigers
29 Jan 2009, 0359 hrs IST, Anindo Dey, TNN
JAIPUR: More is not merrier so far as the tiger population at Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary in Rajasthan is concerned.
It was time for cheer last year in May when state forest officials first spotted 14 tiger cubs in the park. This year, with the mating season fast drawing to a close in February, the thought of more tigers at the park has become a cause of concern for forest officials.
The Ranthambore National Park does not have the capacity to hold more tigers. Everyday more and more tigers are straying from the park for want of space. "Just two days ago, a tiger had strayed towards the Chambal. We do not know if it will come back at all and if it doesn't, it may not stay alive for long,'' said a senior government official.
There have been straying of tigers in the past few months too. Tigers thenmade their way into the buffer zone of the Kailadevi sanctuary and other places.
"We are yet to get hold of this tiger. We put in a lot of people and money but are yet to bring it back to the sanctuary. In fact, the moment a tiger steps out of the sanctuary, there is a question mark on its life. It normally attacks cattle for want of food and is killed by villagers,'' the official said referring to the new incident.
Such has become the pressure on tigers, with 35 of them literally holed in 392 sq km of the Ranthambore wildlife reserve, recent incidents of straying gave sparked fears of them becoming maneaters.
"If they do not have a territory to themselves, they will not be able to hunt and that is when they attack human beings. This is what had happened in Bara Banki district of Uttar Pradesh when one such tiger on the prowl killed a teenager in December last year,'' the official said.
Adding to the woes of the state forest officials are recent directives by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Efforts to relocate tigers from Ranthambore to Sariska came to a naught after NTCA directed that only transient tigers be relocated.
"We were looking forward to relocating these cubs just before they separated from their mother for a separate territory for themselves. But we were told not to touch the tigers in the core area and instead catch a transient tiger which is very difficult,'' the official added.
So frustrated are state forest department officials that it has shot off letters to the Centre asking it to carry out the relocation process in the wake of the new NTCA directives. But that was not to be.
"Our only hope is some relaxation in the directives so that we continue with the relocation of the third tiger to Sariska. In this way, in the long run we can use the Ranthambore Park as a breeding ground for tiger and shift the excess big cats to other sanctuaries in the state like the Darrah and Kumbhalgarh,'' the official said.