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Jailed in Jungle: Why Wild Tigress Languishes in Enclosure, Needs to Be Probed

Two years ago, two wild tigers were relocated from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha under India’s maiden interstate -tiger translocation programme which failed miserably. The two big cats were shifted  to Satkosia tiger reserve in Odisha after its tiger population plummeted  from 11 in 2004 to 2 in 2014. One of the big cats  Mahavir sent from MP was reportedly  killed by poachers while Sundari, the tigress, accused of killing two persons,  landed behind barbed wires in a small  enclosure raising questions over the  wildlife management in the country. Many wildlife experts in  India feel that the Satkosia fiasco should be probed and the people responsible for the plight of the national animal  should be held accountable. Condemned to Captivity Before Sundari was condemned to captivity in  Ghorela enclosure in Mukki range of of Kanha  National park,  the tigress had  already  spent an agonizing period of  28 months in captivity in Satkosia, where it was sent  to find a new home and help populat

Tiger's Epic Walk Raises Serious Environmental Issues

radio-collared tiger in India, tiger population, wildlife sanctuary, Yavatmal district in Maharashtra, in Dhyanganga sanctuary, Buldhana, GPS data  generated, Maharashtra and Telangana, jungle in Vidharbha,

When Walker wandered over 3000 kms last year, the three year old tiger seemed to have thrown the gauntlet at the government and officials busy in achieving a bizarre target, the target of doubling the tiger population. Termed as TX2, it is a global goal to make the tiger population two- folds by 2022. In 2010, all the 13 tiger range countries joined hands in St Petersburg and set the target.  India, with the largest tiger population in the world, is busy in achieving the objective. Too obsessed with their tiger number, they seemed to have forgotten the forests and preservation of the corridors.  A wake-up call from Walker underlines the significance of forest corridors.

The Epic Walk

radio-collared tiger in India, tiger population, wildlife sanctuary, Yavatmal district in Maharashtra, in Dhyanganga sanctuary, Buldhana, GPS data  generated, Maharashtra and Telangana, jungle in Vidharbha,
In March, 2020 this radio-collared tiger in India grabbed global attention by taking a roundabout route of forests starting from Tipeshwer wildlife sanctuary in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra in June 2019. From here, the tiger went to Telangana before re-entering Maharashtra again and finally settling down in Dhyanganga sanctuary in Buldhana. And while doing so, the big cat had travelled 3,020 kilometres across Maharashtra and Telangana in 13 months, as per the records of the GPS data  generated by the tiger’s collar. From TWLS T1C1, or Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary cub C1 born to tigress T1, the tiger became Walker. Distance between the two Maharashtra districts ( Yavatmal and Buldhana) is about 244 kms. But Walker had to travel 3020 kms to reach Dhyanganga, the small jungle in Vidharbha region of Maharashtra known as the island jungle because it has no forest connectivity. Ever since Walker made this jungle his home, he is all alone. Though the forest department in Maharashtra is mulling over translocation of a mate for C1, they have not been able execute this idea.

“Dhyanganga is like an island. Unless it has some connectivity to other tiger-bearing areas like Melghat in Amravati district and Muktai Bhavani in Jalgaon district, it makes little sense to facilitate the growth of Walker’s progeny in Dhyanganga”, officials said. “Where do they go and how do we ensure their genetic plurality?” is their concern. This has also highlighted the importance of the forest corridors and the connectivity of one forest to another to give safe passage to the wild animals.

Dnyanganga, officials  reiterates,that it needs to be developed into a regular tiger-sustaining area by developing corridors to connect with other such locations. “We need to first facilitate connectivity before letting Walker’s tribe grow,” the forest department officials of Maharashtra have said.

Also read: Protect This Wildlife Corridor To Save The Ganges

Born in late 2016, the sub-adult male C1 was a part of a project of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, to study the dispersal of tigers across the eastern Vidarbha landscape.  The WII team which tracked the tiger throughout his journey  said Walker strayed into Adilabad division in Telangana and spent considerable time across inter-state forests of Adilabad and Nanded divisions during August and September 2019 . It criss-crossed several forest divisions and districts crossing human-dominated landscapes, agricultural fields, canals, villages and highways before  heading towards  Dhyanganga sanctuary.

Over the months, 6,240 GPS locations were picked up and the animal was found to have normal predation patterns and achieved all the skills to survive and avoid humans, according to a report by the team of scientists and researchers at WII, comprising Bilal Habib, Parag Nigam and Zehidul Hussain. Citing this as the longest journey ever taken by a collared tiger in the country, the team submitted its report to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Maharashtra.

Walker Waits for an Answer

radio-collared tiger in India, tiger population, wildlife sanctuary, Yavatmal district in Maharashtra, in Dhyanganga sanctuary, Buldhana, GPS data  generated, Maharashtra and Telangana, jungle in Vidharbha,
WII scientists said that  “ translocating a tigress  is an easy task and can be carried out any time. But where would the cubs go after mating.  But experts warn that “the challenge is much bigger than that”. The space within Dhyanganga would not be sufficient to accommodate the family of tigers.

Also read: Lonely Tiger Returns Home After One Decade 

Officials point to two forest stretches that can provide a larger area for a tiger population to move about: the 74-sq km Katepurna Sanctuary in Akola and the 18-sq km Karanja Sohol Sanctuary in Washim. But these proposals  are full of “ifs and buts”.

For long-term conservation, we need to ensure proper channels for tigers to move in and out of Dhyanganga. It is a big challenge, officials in Maharashtra said.

Back in Buldana, , there were demands to preserve Dhyanganga as a tiger area to facilitate tourism.  A Shiv Sena  MP Prataprao Jadhav had  even suggested a 10-km elevated corridor between two villages to replace the 50-km Khamgaon-Buldana road cutting through the sanctuary. There are also plans to relocate the only village inside the sanctuary.

Walker’s walk has raised many big questions. The most important: Is TX2 possible without proper preservation of India’s forests and the corridors connecting them. Walker awaits an answer.

Representational pictures

Comments

  1. What place for tigers in 25 years time, when the human population of India will have doubled? In my life I have seen the world population multiplied by 3, and the animal population of the planet decimated. A "free-market" economy is not sustainable, since it is not based on long-term conciderations, and only concernes human interests.

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