Sariska finally gets a tiger

June 28th, 2008 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anil Sharma
Alwar (Rajasthan), June 28 (IANS) After a prolonged wait, a male tiger literally landed Saturday in Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve as part of a rehabilitation programme after the park lost all its big cats to poaching around three years ago. “The exercise to bring in a tiger from Ranthambore (National Park) was completed (Saturday) in the afternoon,” Rajasthan Chief Wildlife Warden R.N. Mehrotra told IANS.

He said the tiger was flown in by a helicopter from Ranthambore in a sedated condition.

“We were planning to undertake the exercise early in the day but as the weather was not good, it was delayed by a few hours,” Mehrotra said.

“It was a nearly 40 minute flight from Ranthambore to Sariska,” he added.

Experts say the helicopter was used to save the tiger from the tedious four-hour road journey of some 240 km between the two sanctuaries and to avoid exposure to heat.

Senior officials of the state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun were present to supervise the exercise, which has been undertaken for the first time in the country.

The government decided to reintroduce tigers in Sariska after a report brought out by the WII in March 2005 had confirmed that there were no big cats left in the reserve, although a census conducted the previous year had indicated the existence of 16 to 18 tigers.

The forest department had identified a three-year-old tiger in the Ranthambore National Park for relocation to Sariska.

Ranthambore, which is one of India’s famous national parks, is a 494 sq km reserve in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district. It is home to around 32 Royal Bengal tigers, apart from 14 cubs that have also been sighted.

As per the breeding plan, a tigress is expected to join the male tiger after a gap of 15 days. Both animals would be radio collared and would initially be kept in an enclosed area where their activities would be monitored.

Spread over two hectares, the enclosed area is similar to the tiger’s natural habitat and also has a water hole. The two would be fed with the live bait for some weeks and once they have acclimatized to the new habitat, would be let out into the wild.

The forest department is being extra cautious this time around and has erected watch towers to keep a eye on the animals.

According to the rehabilitation plan, five tigers would be brought here in a span of three years for breeding, with Rs.155 million being earmarked for the project.

“The whole world is watching this rehabilitation exercise with interest as it has never been done anywhere else. We are optimistic that we would be able to successfully implement it as Sariska’s forests are in good health with an adequate prey base for the tigers,” a forest department official said.

The Sariska tiger reserve is spread over some 866 sq km and is located 110 km from Jaipur. The reserve is also home to leopards, different varieties of deer, jungle cats and birds, among others.

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