‘Female presence’ to lure runaway tiger back to Panna
Posted: Monday , Dec 14, 2009 at 0452 hrs
New Delhi: A “healthy, adult male tiger” was chosen after months of deliberation from Pench tiger park to be translocated to the empty Panna tiger reserve, which lost all its big cats to poaching exactly a year ago. Now, the young male has done what was least expected — it has run 200 km away.
After several letters between the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in New Delhi, it has finally been decided that the truant should be sedated and brought back — but only after he is given evidence that there are tigresses in Panna for company.
In an unusual letter to Madhya Pradesh, the NTCA has given the state forest department the permission to sedate the tiger and bring him back to Panna, after littering the enclosure he is brought back in with the scat of tigresses — to establish mate presence and to keep him “in Panna”.
This follows several arguments between the state and Centre, with the satellite signal in the tiger’s collar failing to work, and a debate on the ethical wisdom of sedating the animal for a second time.
“The tiger should be brought back to a soft-release enclosure in Panna, and kept there for at least 10 days so he can be familiarised with Panna. Further we have specifically asked that scat of the two tigresses in Panna be kept around the enclosure that is created for the tiger, so he doesn’t leave the park,” says an NTCA official. This is the first time that such a solution is being mooted in black and white, but the problem also is a first.
After weeks of searching in tiger reserves Bandhavgarh and Kanha, a male tiger had been selected from Pench to be tranquilised and moved to Panna, which had lost all its tigers to poaching. Two tigresses have also been translocated to the reserve since then.
The male tiger, fitted with a satellite-cum-radio collar roughly worth Rs 4 lakh, was brought in in November, and ran away soon after. Walking out of the park, the four-year-old tiger has been on a long march, via Panna to Kishenpur, Rajpura, Bakswaho, Dalpatpur (close to the district border) — crossing at least two districts and 200 kilometres.
A large group from the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, including Panna Field Director Srinivas Murthy, and scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been on its trail for two weeks.
Some members of the WII team are of the view that the tiger, which was tranquilised when it was first translocated, should not be sedated again. The ethics of sedating tigers to move them has become a burning question after a stray tigress, sedated and caged earlier this year to be taken to the Bhadra tiger reserve in Karnataka, died in the process.
Madhya Pradesh meanwhile claims that the NTCA did not respond soon enough. “We had communicated with the NTCA several times for permission to tranquilise the runaway tiger. However, we were not granted permission for several days. Further, the satellite collar stopped working. Even though it is a very expensive device, it has not been giving a signal since November 25. We have barely been able to follow the tiger through radio telemetry signals. The tiger has been moving in ravines and hilly area and tracking it has been very difficult,” says R S Negi, Chief Wildlife Warden, Madhya Pradesh.
“The ethical questions should be considered later. At this moment, it is imperative that the tiger be moved before there is any conflict with human beings. Also, it should not be allowed to cross any state borders,” says former Project Tiger director P K Sen.
There have been only two large-scale tiger translocation projects in India — one for the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan, and one for Panna in Madhya Pradesh, both of which lost all their tigers to poaching. As per population recovery plans created by the WII, five tigers from adjoining reserves have to be brought in to each park. Three tigers, a male and two females, have been translocated to Sariska, while two tigresses and one tiger have been brought to Panna. While the male tiger moved to Sariska also showed a lot of restlessness after being moved, it is for the first time that a translocated tiger has run so far away.