Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 4:
With high-powered cameras installed by the forest officials recording the presence of a number of Royal Bengal tigers (RBT) in the Satkosia Tiger Reserve area, a debate has ensued as to why the wild tiger, now in captivity in the Nandankanan Zoo, will be relocated to Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) instead of Satakosia, which has a vast prey base for the carnivores.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has taken a decision to release the wild cat in STR after field director of Satakosia Pandav Behera expressed apprehension that Satakosia had not shown any encouraging sign as far as growth of tiger population is concerned. Earlier, the NTCA had decided to release the wild tiger in Satkosia, believed to be its original habitat.
“Since the forest officials have found presence of at least five tigers in Satakosia, the big cat should be released in the tiger reserve instead of STR. Besides, the tiger will have enough prey to hunt in the reserve compared to Similipal,” said wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty.
Mohanty also came down heavily on the Satakosia reserve authorities for lack of monitoring by the officials to locate tigers in the reserve and demanded that the chief minister should conduct an inquiry to ascertain the presence of tigers.
While the high-powered cameras installed by the forest officials at vantage points inside the forest areas have captured 19 photos of over Royal Bengal Tigers, their exact number has not yet been ascertained.
Wildlife lovers say the release of a tiger in an alien habitat is different from doing so in a reserve which has a host population.
“Once released, there is also apprehension that the wild tiger may kill cubs or engage with local males that could lead to casualties. Besides, the possibility the tiger getting drawn into conflict with humans or livestock in human habitation can not be ruled out,” said a wildlife activist.
However, a state wildlife official said that Similipal was chosen over Satkosia because of certain advantages including the large protected area, prey base and the overall tiger population.
“Even though the NTCA has given its nod to release the tiger in Similipal, we need to do a lot of ground work and complete other modalities. We will have to identify a suitable site where the tiger can be released. We will have to ensure that it is a no-conflict zone,” said BP Singh, acting PCCF (wildlife).
Informing that the nod of the Ministry of Forest and Environment department is required for the release of the tiger, he said issues such as radio-collaring and proximity of human habitations will also have to be taken into account. Familiarising the wild tiger to the site will also be kept in mind when relocation is decided.