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Tiger finally captured, relocated to Dudhwa

 

By Ratan Mani Lal

A wild tiger that had strayed from the Terai forests to the vicinity of Lucknow, was captured after sustained efforts by a team of forest  
department officials on Wednesday morning. The tiger was later taken to the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and released there. The tiger had been first noticed in the first week of January by villagers in the thick forests of Rehman Kheda, a hamlet northwest of Lucknow beyond the mango orchards of the Central Institute of Sub-tropical Horticulture (CISH) a Central government institute engaged in research on mango and other fruit species.

The tiger, nicknamed ‘Badshah’ by forest employees had been involved in a game of hide-and-seek for more 100 days and had survived on killing bluebulls (nilgai) and the animals tied as bait to capture it. However, it had not attacked any human so far and kept away from  human settlements. Still, residents of the entire region had been having sleepless nights in the fear that the big cat might attack  their huts. After a series of experiments that included tying goats as bait near a cage, digging a pit and chasing it by elephants  failed, the tiger was finally shot with a tranquilizer gun early on the morning of April 25 by Dr Utkarsh Shukla, the Lucknow Zoo  veterinarian, and then kept in a cage before finally being driven to Dudhwa.

But there were a few uneasy moments for wildlife experts as a section of officials felt the animals should have been kept in the Lucknow zoo as a prize display. Although it would certainly have attracted massive footfalls to the zoo, but one glorious animal would have been  reduced to being a dull and pale shadow of its natural self. Luckily, good sense prevailed and the animal was shifted to Dudhwa. The tiger thus became the first stray tiger in Uttar Pradesh to be successfully captured and relocated in a jungle.

Mounted on elephants, three teams of experts were tracking the beast for the past four months, including a two-member team from  the Wildlife Trust of India. In order to localise the tiger in the area, the forest department had been tying baits. The tiger was tranquilized as it came to eat a buffalo it had killed the previous day, according to the chief conservator of forests C.P. Goel. It was reported that Shukla had shot two darts from a distance of approximately 10 metres, and while one missed the target, the  other hit the tiger on its side. Then it was put in a cage, which was covered in order to prevent the tiger from seeing anything and becoming aggressive. It was given an antidote within fifteen minutes of capture. Once conscious, it would have tried to attack whatever it saw, and in the process, it would have hurt itself. In order to beat the heat, the cage was drenched in water.

At 10.30 am, the tiger began its journey to Dudhwa along with a team of forest guards. The tiger was reported to be perfectly healthy and was released in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve with a radio collar around its neck. Applauding the efforts of the forest department, Rahul Shukla, member of Tiger and Terrain, an NGO working for tiger conservation, said: “The tiger has been rehabilitated in South Sonaripur area of Dudhwa reserve, which does not have a dominant male tiger. This will help the young tiger make its own territory.” The tiger is supposed to have strayed to Lucknow from the southern Kheri jungles in the last week of December. Experts believe the juvenile male was in search of its own territory but because of the dense sugarcane crop and cold weather, it strayed.

Shukla felt the Rehman Kheda tiger must have started his journey soon after monsoons were over. Covering some 150 odd miles it landed near Lucknow in early January. It stayed here since then, moving through tall cover, never making itself visible yet feeding properly of regular kills. This shows that this animal had the ability to survive in human dominated landscape.

“This perfectly normal, no-problem tiger had understood the nuances of living in farmland and near villages. These learnt traits emerge in big cats when their coexistence with humans becomes a compulsion,” says Shukla who has done pioneering research and field work among sugarcane tigers in the Terai region.

Regarding the Lucknow incident, he said since reports of tigers and leopards straying into human settlements had been coming in frequently from places such as Mumbai, Siliguri, Guwahati, Odisha and now Lucknow, it was important that a manual about how to capture such animals was prepared. “By indulging in experiments, we endanger not only the life of the animal but also of humans living in and around the area.” He also said the idea floated by some officials that if the tiger could not be captured then a tiger safari be created around it, was ridiculous. “If such incidents keep happening in many cities, will we keep on creating safaris everywhere?” he asked.


(Ratan Mani Lal is a journalist, having been editor of Hindustan Times, The Times of India at Lucknow, and Dainik Bhaskar in Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh)

 

 

 

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