In landmark conservation effort, ferocious tiger rehabilitated to Dudhwa

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New Delhi/Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (Kheri), March 9 (IANS) A ferocious tiger, which recently killed a woman in Pilibhit forest of Uttar Pradesh, has been successfully rehabilitated to Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. Being seen as a landmark in conservation efforts, this is only the second such achievement in Terai region — and among the few across the country.

The forest communities in the Terai region are the most vulnerable to fatal attacks from the big cats. As many as five deaths in just over two months of 2018 have caused panic among residents in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve area.

The region, infamous for highest number of man-animal conflict, had witnessed 21 tragic deaths in 2017.

In the present case, the feline was tranquilised the day after it killed a 22-year-old woman — thought to be the latest in a series of similar incidents.

The tiger had take refuge in agricultural field just near the village where it killed its last victim. It was intercepted and sedated by a five member team in a daunting operation. The team comprising experts from Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), state forest department and WWF, used a JCB machine, two tractors and a offroader to corner the ferocious feline.

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Prior to its release, it was closely observed in confinement for three days. The tiger has now been radio-collared to help foresters monitor its movements and analyse its hunting behavior to ensure it does not wander off, officials told IANS.

It has now been learnt that although the tiger killed the woman “out of hunger”, it did not eat the carcass.

“Therefore, the tiger is not a man-eater, it has no deformity which makes it the most suitable for rehabilitation,” Dr Mayukh Chatterjee, Head of WTI’s Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation division, told IANS.

According to the officials, the tiger has been relocated in Belrayan Range of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, about a 100 kms away from the Pilibhit region. Its new abode, officials say, was choosen carefully so that the area has less tiger density, and high prey-base.

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“In high tiger density region, there are possibilities that the young tiger may be dominated and pushed out by other felines,” Chatterjee said.

In the last similar incident, a conflict-tiger wondered over 200 kms from Pilibhit Tiger Reserve to the outskirts of Lucknow city and was rehabilitated in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in 2014.

“Its a rare opportunity and a matter of pride for us. We again have an opportunity to understand the behaviour of a rehabilitated tiger. Dudhwa is one of the safest reserves for tigers and now, after 2014 case; its also emerging as a rehabilitation heaven,” Mahaveer Koujalagi, Deputy Director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, told IANS.

Just on the outskirts of Pilibhit Tiger Reserve are agricultural fields where the local residents cultivate sugarcane. While tigers see these sugarcane fields with rich prey-base as an extension of their natural habitat, it also leads to negative man-animal conflict — the death of the woman on March 5 being the latest example.

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In 2017, total 21 people were killed by at least five different tigers in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. One such tiger was declared man-eater in February 2017 and sent to Lucknow Zoo.

According to records, 33 people were killed by tigers in 2013-14, while 28 were killed in 2014-15 throughout the country.

India is home to 70 per cent of the world’s free-ranging tigers, estimated at 2,226 in 2014, of which at least 640 dwell outside tiger reserves.

(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS

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