Tigers to roam again in Sariska by June end

June 6th, 2008 - 2:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Alwar (Rajasthan), June 6 (IANS) The Sariska Tiger Reserve near here, which lost all of its tigers to poachers about three years ago, will again resound with the roar of the big cats by the end of this month as Rajasthan’s forest department is set to begin a breeding project. A report brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India in March 2005 had confirmed that there were no tigers left in the reserve, although an official census conducted the previous year had indicated the existence of 16 to 18 tigers in the reserve. Poaching was blamed for the disappearance of the tigers.

Forest officials say the process of restoring tigers to Sariska is expected to begin from June end, when a sexually mature tigress capable of breeding will be brought from Ranthambore National Park, about 300 km from here. Fifteen days after the tigress in brought to Sariska, a tiger from Ranthambore will join her. Both of them will be radio collared for monitoring.

The forest department has already identified a three-year-old tigress for the breeding process, which will be implemented in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

According to the proposal, five tigers would be brought here in a span of three years for rehabilitation.

“Chances are high that Sariska again sees tigers by the end of the month,” said R.N. Mehrotra, chief wildlife warden of Sariska.

The Sariska Tiger Reserve has an area of around 866 sq km and is located some 110 km from the state capital Jaipur. The reserve is also home to leopards, different varieties of deer and jungle cats among other animals.

Various options to bring the tigers are being considered, including transporting them by an aircraft - which is expected to take only 45 minutes.

The road journey from Ranthambore to Sariska, which may take over nine hours, is also being considered as some wildlife experts have expressed their concern over tigers being transported by air since they might go into trauma.

Initially, the wild cats would be kept in enclosures and their activities would be monitored.

“The process to rehabilitate the tigers has already been started. We have shifted one village situated inside the tiger reserve and steps are being taken to shift more. We have also started building enclosures for the tigers,” Rajesh Gupta, deputy field director of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, told IANS.

The tigers would be introduced in a three to five acre enclosed area, which is being prepared in a natural habitat and would have a water hole.

The tigress will be fed live bait and will be released in the open forest where her movement would be watched for two weeks. Once she is acclamatised to the new habitat, she would be let out into the wild.

Around Rs.155 million has been earmarked for the rehabilitation exercise. The Ranthambore national park, from where the tigers will be relocated, has an area of around 400 sq km and is situated in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district, about 175 km from Jaipur. It is considered one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. It was declared a national park in 1981.

As per the recent census, the Ranthambore park has 32 tigers - up from 26 in 2005. Moreover, 14 cubs have also been sighted in the park.

“We are optimistic that we would be able to successfully implement the project as Sariska forests are in good health, with adequate prey base for the tigers,” a forest official said.

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