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Red Threat on Tiger Census

Ahead of the ambitious tiger census in 2022, there are disturbing reports of disruption in the counting of the big cats in Palamu tiger reserve located in Jharkhand where  Naxalites have yet again threatened the tiger estimation work. Last year there were reports that the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) officials were allegedly taken hostage by the left wing ultras in Palamu when they were carrying out the work of setting up cameras in the jungle to capture the images of the tigers for the census. However, they were released later.  Palamu is not the only tiger reserve  in India facing the red threat. Indravati national park in Chattisgarh, now considered as a Naxal hotspot, and Similipal in Odisha are some other national parks where the Naxals  have affected the wildlife conservation projects. 2022 is an important year for tiger conservation as the tiger range countries – mainly the countries where the big cat is found  in South East Asia  and the Russian Far East - had  decided in

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 populate the big cats.  Before the arrival of Mahavir and Sundari to Satkosia, a section of the local community residing at the edge of the reserve had protested the move from the start apprehending harm to their lives and livestock. They had  also alleged they were not consulted before the release of the  two big cats. The tigress allegedly killed a 45-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man in September 2018 triggering violence by locals who burnt the forest department’s boats and beat the officials. They also resorted to arson demanding her capture and the state Forest department had no clue how to handle the situation.  With elections not very far, the tiger project had also become a poll issue .

Also read: Tale of Missing Tigers of Ranthambhore: 4 More Takes the Count to 34

 After the 65 year old man had died on October 21, it was decided to catch  the animal and keep it in an enclosure. Tranquiliser experts from Satkosia, Nandankanan Zoological Park, Madhya Pradesh and Wildlife Institute of India and more than 250 field staff had followed the animal. A trained elephant was also engaged in capturing Sundari. Different reasons were attributed to Sundari’s repeated straying into human habitations. According to the officials of Satkosia tiger reserve, the three-year-old tigress was in search of a partner for mating. It was, however, facing violent resistance from STR’s two resident tigresses.

Raigoda Enclosure in  Satkosia


After more than a fortnight of intense chase, experts on November 6th , 2018 managed to tranquilize Sundari .  One need to understand the torture and trauma of the tigress  she was first tranquilized to be translocated to Satkosia .The tigress in fact was tranquilized thrice. First when  picked up from Bandhavgarh to Satkosia, then from Satkosia to Raigoda enclosure and then from Raigoda to Kanha again she went through the painful tranquilization. Condemned to the Raigoda enclosure much part of her stay in Satkosia, Sundari was left to languish in a ‘jail’. In December 2020, the National Tiger Conservation Authority had asked the Odisha government to send back Sundari from Satkosia and accused the Odisha forest and wildlife department of making a mess of the monitoring and management of the relocated tigress.The tigress was not monitored and managed as per the standard operating procedure set by it, the NTCA had alleged.

Also read: Future Tense: Turbulent Time Ahead for Panna Tigers

“Tigress T-2(Sundari) cannot be allowed to be kept in a small enclosure for any longer time. Therefore, in interest of Tiger Conservation, Tigress T-2 shall be withdrawn and brought to Ghorela centre at Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, with immediate effect for re-wilding and subsequent release to suitable habitat,” the NTCA had written to Odisha. Ghorela is a bigger enclosure in Kanha tiger reserve with a small water body and  cave.

Mahavir’s Tragic End


While Sundari was relocated from Bandhavgarh national  park to Satkosia , Mahavir was  captured from Kanha tiger reserve  in June 2018 and was released in Satkosia. Five months later , Mahavir was found dead in a jungle near Nuagada in Hindol forest division, suspected to have been killed by poachers. Wire snared allegedly laid by poachers caused a deep wound on Mahavir’s neck. Its carcass was found under a bush in the tiger reserve. This happened when  the tiger was tracked 24x7 with the help of a radio collar.

“We had opposed the project from the very outset. Satkosia is not a suitable place to release tigers,” a former member of National Wildlife Board Biswajit Mohanty as quoted in the media. The forest department should have consulted the locals before implementing the project, he said.

Also read:Wire Snares in Maharashtra Jungles Sound Alert

Satkosia  owes its name to the narrow stretch of River Mahanadi i.e. “Sat-Kosh'' or seven miles long near Tikarpada, 60 km south of Angul. The area was made a sanctuary in 1976 and spreads out in four districts of Odisha namely Angul, Budh, Cuttack and Nayagarh. The Satkosia Gorge is a unique feature in geomorphology of India because here Mahanadi cuts right across the Eastern Ghats and has formed a magnificent gorge.  The Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Angul district and the Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj are the two tiger reserves in Odisha. The number of big cats in the state ranges from 28 to 40. Notified in 2007 as a Tiger Reserve, Satkosia with an area of 963.8 sq km boasted of a good tiger count and prey population before poor protection plunged the big cat numbers. In a decade’s time, the tiger head count had dropped to two.

Who is Responsible for the Fiasco


The two tigers were relocated without analyzing the reasons behind the decline in  the population of the big cat in Odisha. According to experts, authorities should have assessed the reason behind the fall in the number of tigers in the area before bringing the new tigers. In January 2004, Satkosia had 11 tigers, including four males and six females. “The number went down to eight in 2010 and to two (old females) in 2014,  Odisha forest department data   said. Tiger conservationists say it is critical to identify and mitigate factors responsible for a decline in tiger population before trying to introduce new tigers in the area. “First protect the forest, curb illegal hunting, wait for prey numbers to rise…  and all this takes 15 years or so, said an expert. “Instead, the officials decided to  take a short cut and exported tigers from other state.” In all they intended to shift six tigers — three males and three females. The whole project may have been shelved; people behind the plight of the national animal  have not yet been taken to  task.
Banner Pic: Sundari in Ghorela enclosure of  Kanha tiger reserve 

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  1. Article 51-A (g) of The Constitution of India says -
    “It shall be duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.”

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