Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Sept 8:
Even though both the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), after a long-drawn debate, finally recommended that the wild tiger ‘Nandan’ be kept as a captive animal in the Nandankanan Zoological Park instead of rehabilitating it in the wild, the big cat, which had voluntarily stepped into the zoo on April 30 last year, will have to wait for another six to seven months before it can be allowed to mate with a captive zoo tigress of its choice.
“Even though the tiger has been housed in the zoo for more than a year, we need to study the behaviour of the wild animal before allowing it to mate with a tigress. We need around six to seven months to come to any conclusion,” said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) SS Srivastava.
He said during the seven months of moratorium, they will also be able to find out which of the zoo tigresses Nandan actually feels attracted to.
The state wildlife chief, however, said that the tiger will remain in the enclosure for some time as it is still quite aggressive as compared to the other captive zoo tigers.
It may be mentioned that the Royal Bengal tiger had strayed into the zoo on April 30 last year and escaped after jumping off an 18 feet high wire-fence a month later on May 31.
However, the big cat again made its way to the zoo on June 24, apparently to mate with the captive zoo tigress Sara.
Two days ago, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) asked the Odisha government to keep Nandan in the zoo as it had already acclimatised itself to the zoo surroundings.
The decision was taken following the recommendations of the experts of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
“The WII team had visited the zoo on July 22 after which it informed the NTCA about tiger’s health and behavioural pattern. Two experts had examined whether the tiger is fit to be released in the Similipal Tiger Reserve as it had been staying in captivity since April 30 last year.
There was a long-drawn debate over whether the wild tiger should be retained in the zoo or rehabilitated in the wild. While local people had staged demonstrations demanding that the wild animal be kept in the zoo, some wildlife activists had argued in favour of its release in either the Satkosia Tiger Reserve or Simlipal Tiger Reserve.
The NTCA had earlier directed the government to release the seven-year-old RBT into the STR. NTCA had asked the WII to slash the budget needed for releasing the tiger. The institute had given an estimation of Rs 74 lakh which included putting a radio collar on the tiger and monitoring of the animal.
On the other hand, a group of lawyers and animal lovers led by Dr Pradeep Tarai, Ashok Raj, Kishore Chandra Sahu, BIjay Kumar Samal, Sushant K Jena, Durga Nayak, Rusi Pattnaik and Pradip K Sahu had petitioned to the NTCA seeking retention of the wild tiger inside the zoo based on a set of arguments against proposed release of the animal in the wild.
Currently the ‘star’ tiger, Nandan, has been kept inside an off-exhibit enclosure (No. 30 D), where infrared close circuit television cameras have been installed to keep a hawk’s eye on it round the clock.