Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 9 :
Anguished over the fact that a wild Royal Bengal Tiger ( RBT) continues to ‘languish in captivity’ at Nandankanan zoo for almost one year, the Odisha Environment and Forest minister Bijayshree Routray today directed the concerned authorities to release it in Similipal forests within a fortnight, reliable sources said.
The sources said Routray is annoyed over the inordinate delay in releasing the big cat and has told his officers that the entire subject should be judged from a “ wildlife point of view and not from a bureaucratic angle”.
The minister pointed out that the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the MoEF had cleared the proposal to release the RBT . In fact eight months ago the Union Minister for Environment and Forest had issued an order for the release of the tiger in the wild and yet no concrete step has been taken till date, he said.
Routray, known for his love for wildlife and plants, had earlier ordered a release of a leopard which was captured in Sonepur. He was clearly unhappy over the bureaucratic delay in the release of the RBT which had entered the Nandankanan zoo twice, perhaps in search of a mate in April 2013.
The state Forest department has held several rounds of discussions with tiger experts, the NTCA and the wildlife authorities over the past one year. The initial concern was to try and locate the habitat of the RBT which had strayed into to the zoo. Efforts were made to retrace the forests from where it had come. The prey base for the tiger had also to be studied before releasing it to the wild.
Finally, it was decided that the best place to release the RBT was Similipal forests. But the release was delayed folowing a debate on whether a radio collar should be attached to the RBT to monitor its movement in the wild. Routray held the view that such a collar will affect the behavior of the wild tiger. At the same time the collar may not be accepted by a companion in the wild, he had pointed out.
However, some tiger experts say releasing a tiger in an alien forest needs to be preceded by adequate research on possible fallouts for the animal. There is also a view that the wild tiger could be used for breeding in the zoo, thus infusing a new blood line.
It would be interesting to watch how the tussle over the question of releasing the wild RBT in Simlipal tiger reserve pans out in the next two weeks.