Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Dec 1:
Despite strong protests by wildlife activists, Nandan, the wild Royal Bengal tiger (RBT), which strayed into Nandan Kanan Zoological Park in search of a mate, may remain in captivity for breeding purpose, instead of being released into Satkosia tiger reserve, believed to have been its original habitat.
Even though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) have favoured the release of the big cat in the Satakosia tiger reserve in Angul district, the forest department is not to willing to release the wild tiger there because its actual habitat has not been established beyond doubt and also because it can help in breeding inside the zoo.
A senior wildlife official said that the wild tiger, Nandan, will help in the captive breeding of big cats.
“It will give us a new gene pool which can ward off inbreeding complications including premature death of cubs,” he said.
“We have two options..either the keep the wild cat in Nandan Kanan or to release. However, the department and state Environment Minister are insisting on the release of the tiger. We are waiting the final nod of the NTCA. Until the time we receive clear-cut guidelines from the NTCA, the tiger will continue to stay in the zoo,” said JD Sharma, PCCF (Wildlife).
However, wildlife activists have been opposing the idea of keeping the wild animal in captivity and say it is in contravention of the wildlife laws..
“We wish to lodge a strong protest about attempts of the state government to retain the tiger in zoo to bolster its tiger gene pool through captive breeding,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a member of the National Board for Wildlife.
Mohanty had earlier written to the Additional PCCF & Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), saying that it is a blatant violation of wildlife laws as well as the SOP (standard operating procedure) issued by NTCA.
Meanwhile, the field director of Satakosia Pandav Behera in a letter to Chief Wildlife Warden, has expressed apprehension about the decision to release the wild tiger in the forest reserve, which lacks manpower and other requisite infrastructure for proper monitoring of the animal’s movements.
In his letter, he said that even after the tiger’s release it may still head for Nandan Kanan because of non-availability of females in Satakosia.
“Since the inception of the Satkosia tiger reserve in 2007, the condition of vegetation and habit has improved to a great extent due to stringent protection measures but the abysmal low density of tiger continues from the very beginning becaue of absence of a contiguous corridor and surrounding industrialization,” said Behera in the letter.
Suggesting that relocation of is not a great idea, Behera also admitted that Satakosia has not shown any encouraging sign so far as growth of tiger population is concerned.
The tiger, which had barged into the zoo on May 1, has been a subject of intense debate among zoo officials and wildlife activists ever since he strayed into the zoo.
Wildlife officials argue that even if Satkosia is indeed the tiger’s original habitat, the animal strayed out its territory either because it was unable to mate or because it was driven away by other dominant males in the reserve
While the zoo officials are not willing to let go of their lucky catch on grounds that it would contribute to the gene pool of tigers and assist in breeding, wildlife activists and enthusiasts are up in arms demanding restoration of the cat to its natural habitat.