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A tale of two tiger reserves

 


THE HINDU
Jaipur, March 21, 2012
Sunny Sebastian

After Panna's successful rewilding, Sariska is sanguine
First there was the Sariska debacle in which all the tigers were found missing in the reserve in Rajasthan's Alwar district sometime in 2004-05. Then there was similar misfortune in Madhya Pradesh's Panna Tiger Reserve in February 2009 — the wild cats became extinct there.

Sariska led the way soon by reintroducing tigers under a recovery plan with the support of the National Tiger Conservation Authority in June 2008.

Panna followed suit in March 2009. It reintroduced one female each from Bhandavgarh and Kanha. Thereafter, it appears, both the reserves charted their own journeys.

The Panna experiment turned out to be a big success. The 576-sq.km reserve, spread over Panna and Chattarpur districts eof Madhya Pradesh, soon became home to a flourishing population of big cats. The reserve, 25 km from Khajuraho, once ravaged by problems, has now 12 tiger cubs, besides the five adults brought in as part of the reintroduction. And that gives Sariska, the leader, a complex, for its three tigresses are yet to give a litter.

The tale of the two reserves came in for comparison this weekend at Alwar when the main protagonists of the tiger reintroduction process got together to discuss the rebuilding of Sariska.

“Where there is a will there is a way,” said R. Sreenivasa Murthy, Field Director in the Panna Tiger Reserve, giving a presentation on tiger relocation and their successful breeding.

The Panna story included the truancy of the lone male, which apparently showed “homing” instincts to repeatedly move in the direction of Pench — it had to be brought back with the help of 70-strong forest staff and four elephants for a second time.

The Panna experiment did not stop at just reintroduction. The park authorities opened a new chapter in conservation by introducing two orphaned female cubs to the reserve in March 2011. They were the litters of a collared tigress that got killed in a fight with another in Kanha in May 2005. They were picked up and hand-reared for one-and-half years to be released into an enclosure in Kanha.

“The Panna team met with success in the rewilding of the tiger. One of them, T4, delivered cubs in November 2011,” said Mr. Murthy.


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