India

New milestone for big cat conservation in India

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne year down the lane, the tiger captured from the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture at Rehmankhera (near Lucknow) has set a new milestone in big cat conservation in the country. Despite having resided on the Institute’s campus — away from its natural habitat — the tiger has bounced back with its wild instincts.

Released in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh on April 26 last year, its intensive monitoring has revealed that it never strayed out of the forest to the fringe villages. More importantly, it neither killed domestic cattle nor involved in human conflicts.

This four-year-old male tiger was captured about 18 km from Lucknow after it had strayed 250 km away from its habitat in Pilibhit forest.

This successful instance of ‘re-wilding’ of the tiger has shattered the myth that a tiger straying and residing near human settlements for a considerable period can be a problematic animal that needs to be killed or sent to zoo. On the contrary, with proper management and planned release, such tigers can well prove to be a conservation asset.

“Proving apprehensions wrong, the tiger has gained all its wild traits,” pointed out Field Director Shailesh Prasad. It has already established its home range, is well set and found to be in good health. Despite being fed on live bait for more than three months and getting used to easy availability of prey it is making its wild kills regularly.

It has been found to move about 168 sq km so far, covering the territories of other resident/dominant males. “This is a clear indication that despite its staying away from natural habitat for nearly four months, it has not been intimidated by the presence of other male big cats and is able to co-exist,” he added.

“This trait is also important considering that the forest patch in Rehmankhera was barely about 100 hectares. But despite this he has traversed such large areas in the wild,” pointed out Anil Kumar Singh, Deputy Director Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), who is a part of the rescue/ monitoring team of the tiger.

The secret behind the success is well-planned release of the tiger, that includes proper estimation of prey base, availability of water in the area besides which is not resided by other dominant males,” said Prasad. Since he did not have dearth of food within the forest, he did not need to stray out of the forest to the surrounding villages, he added.

Such areas of release can be identified in advance for release of straying tigers in the interest of conservation.

This can enable the animal to adapt to the new surroundings without entering into conflicts with man. For instance Western Rajaji Park in Uttarakhand is one such example which presently has just two female tigers, Singh pointed out.

Original Story: Daily Pioneer