Tigress released in Karnataka 71 days ago trapped again in Wayanad last week

Photo-matching done at the Centre for Wildlife Studies - India (CWS) in Bangalore now shows that the tiger trapped in Wayanad this Saturday is a ‘problem tiger’ that had created a conflict situation at a place called Nalkeri on the boundary of the Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka just 71 days ago.

The finding points to need for a re-examination of the capture-release practice followed by the conservation officials in dealing with ‘problem tigers’ that stray into human habitations and cause conflict situations.

This tiger was captured in a box trap by the Karnataka Forest officials on November 23 after two cattle-killing incidents on November 20 and 21 in Nalkeri village outside the western boundary of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, according to conservation zoologist and director of CWS - India Programme, K. Ullas Karanth.

It was an injured tiger and, after treatment at the Mysore zoo, was released by late evening on the same day near a place called Hidagalapanchi in Karnataka’s Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The place of release is less than 10 km, as the crow flies, from the adjoining Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.

Dr. Karanth told The Hindu that the CWS had searched its database containing the stripe patterns of over 600 individually identifiable tigers surviving in the Malanad-Mysore landscape — a database that contains camera-trap pictures gathered over the years from the region — and found the match for the stripe pattern of the tiger captured this Saturday in Wayanad from a conflict situation.

The study showed that this tiger—a tigress, in fact—is the same one that was repeatedly captured by camera-traps and even two wildlife photographers during the period from 2007 to 2012 from a particular area in Nagarahole National Park. It was pushed out of this area, which apparently was its home range, due to unknown reasons that could include inability to retain the home range in the face of competition. It started straying into the human habitations outside Nagarahole in November 2012, to be trapped by the Karnataka Forest officials. It returned once again to human settlements in neighbouring Kerala after being released in Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Apparently, the animal could not hunt and survive.

Poor condition

In a report to the Forest Department on Monday, Dr. Karanth and his associates N. Samba Kumar and Narendra Patil said the tigress, now in Thrissur zoo, should not be released back in the wild. It was eight years or more in age and in a very poor condition.

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