Soon after their release into the wild of Rajasthan’s Sariska forests, relocated tigers surveyed intensely for three months, the jungle that spread over 881 sqkm, to finally settle in a “best home range” having less anthropogenic pressure and rich prey-base, found out scientists who were trailing them.

A tiger and tigress (T1) were shifted from Ranthambhore in June and July, 2008, respectively while another female (T2) was reintroduced into the wild in March 2009, a move to repopulate the species in Sariska sanctuary which lost all the big cats almost six years ago to poachers.

It was the first ever successful translocation of big cats from wild to wild in the country.

The team of scientists comprising K. Sankar, Qamar Qureshi, Parag Nigam1, P.K. Malik, P.R. Sinha from Wildlife Institute of India, R.N. Mehrotra, Rajasthan Chief Wildlife Warden and Rajesh Gopal, member secretary from National Tiger Conservation Authority had conducted study of home range, prey selection, and food habits of the reintroduced tigers for a year from July 2008.

They observed that the radio-collared tiger and tigress moved in two different directions (tiger toward the south and the tigress toward the north) soon after release into wild.

“They occupied different areas and did not meet each other till September 2008. In total, 437 locations for tiger, 463 locations for tigress-1, and 229 locations for tigress-2 were obtained using a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS),” says the study highlighting the normal behaviour of the big cats when moved from their native home to another.

In this case, it was from Ranthambore to Sariska sanctuary.

After having surveyed the new areas in monsoon, the tiger and tigress were found to be settling in the best available habitats in winter with adequate prey base, water availability, and less anthropogenic pressure.

Researching over 115 kill sites made by them from July 2008 to June 2009, the wildlife experts noted that nearly half of the radio-collared tiger’s prey was made up of sambar deer, while nearly 20 per cent of it was livestock, which had been left unprotected far from human dwellings. There are around ten villages in the sanctuary.

Stressing on expediting relocation of the villages, the scientists have estimated that once it is done a 274 sqkm area will be available free from biotic interference which can support at least 15 adult tigers.

“The successful relocation of Bhagani village can set as an example to expedite the entire relocation process. The proposed supplementation of three tigers (one male and two females) in every two years for a period of six years and removal of anthropogenic pressure from the national park will be crucial for the long-term survival of tigers in Sariska,” scientists have said.

To achieve success in making people less dependent on forest resources, implementation of eco-development programs in and around the tiger reserve with the involvement of NGOs is recommended.