Capture of MDT23 - a humane operation centered around scientific principles

Kumki elephants Udhyan and Sreenivasan deployed for the midnight search operation for MDT23 tiger on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: SATHYAMOORTHY M

The massive 22-day-long effort to safely tranquilise and capture tiger MDT23 from Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), began in another forest division entirely in Gudalur.

On September 24, a 56-year-old man who was grazing cattle in Devan Estate, bordering the tiger reserve was mauled to death by the tiger. A search operation quickly ensued to tranquilise the animal, with teams of forest staff and veterinarians deployed.

Despite the attempts of the Forest Department, the tiger crossed into another estate and then doubled back towards its core territory in MTR.

During it’s crossing back into the tiger reserve, on October 1st, another grazer, 82-year-old M. Basuvan, was mauled by the tiger and killed.

Unlike in the last instance, the tiger had eaten parts of Basuvan after he had been killed, causing alarm among the public and the forest officials. Residents staged a protest calling for the animal to be shot dead. Chief Wildlife Warden of Tamil Nadu, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, issued a “hunting” order for MDT23, which authorised the Forest Department to tranquilise and capture the animal, and as a last resort, to shoot it down.

Right from the outset of the operation, forest officials made it clear that they were focused on capturing the animal alive.

More than 100 forest staff, kumki elephants, sniffer dogs and drones were deployed to track the tiger.

The assistance of the staff from Kerala and Karnataka forest divisions was also welcomed by the State Forest Department.

The tiger’s entry into MTR complicated efforts to capture it, as the undulating hillocks of tea in Gudalur – where spotting the tiger was relatively easy, was made all the more difficult in the jungles of MTR.

The tiger managed to evade its would-be captors for over two weeks, and was not spotted on a myriad of camera traps set inside the operation area to locate him for a five-day period.

After being spotted on Wednesday, forest officials had a clear sight of the animal on late Thursday night. However, they said that they avoided darting the tiger due to concerns over the safety of the tiger as well as field staff.

Visibly weakened by the relentless pursuit, MDT23 made one final attempt to lift the head of a cattle on Friday morning near Masinagudi village.

Local residents quickly notified the department who zeroed in on the animal’s location and with a single dart, managed to bring the saga of MDT23 to a successful end.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 5:14:20 AM |

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