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Two’s company in Sariska

NEW HOME: The tigress airlifted from the Ranthambhore National Park and released into the Sariska Tiger Reserve walks off into its enclosure on Friday. —

NEW HOME: The tigress airlifted from the Ranthambhore National Park and released into the Sariska Tiger Reserve walks off into its enclosure on Friday. —   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Sunny Sebastian

Second tiger specimen introduced into reserve

JAIPUR: That lonely tiger in Sariska now has company. A week after it was airlifted from Ranthambhore and released into the Sariska Tiger Reserve as part of an initiative to reintroduce tigers there, the companion it had left behind joined it on Friday.

A team of experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, the National Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Rajasthan Forest Department carried out the operation with the aid of the Indian Air Force for the second time, in an efficient operation that started early in the morning.

It was a rainy day in Ranthambhore but the sunshine broke through the clouds once the big cat was airborne. By the time it walked out of the cage to explore its enclosure, its stripes were glinting. The new arrival in the Sariska reserve, which had lost all its tigers in the wild to poaching in 2004-05, is in an enclosure built adjacent to the first one, for now.

“It is a four-year-old female, weighing around 170 kg. The male released last week is fine. Both will be released from their enclosures once they get acclimatised,” said Parmesh Chandra, Additional Chief Secretary, from Sariska after the operation. “It was a challenge for the wildlife experts. They accomplished their task successfully.”

The feline, not previously radio-collared, was tranquillised and put in a special cage in the IAF helicopter Z 3024 around 11 a.m. It landed in Nayapani, an airstrip built near the tiger holding area in Sariska, by 11-45.

While the first tiger introduced was radio-collared, the latest one was a hitherto “untouched” tiger from the Rajbagh area. Now it has a collar.

“It is a perfect specimen. The female we could get today is the most suitable tiger for Sariska,” Rajpal Singh, member of the Rajasthan Government’s Empowered Committee on Forests and Wildlife, told The Hindu on the telephone from Sariska.

“Everything went off smoothly. With a tiger pair in the Sariska woods now, the first round of the re-introduction exercise is over.”

“The first experience helped,” said Mr. Singh, talking about the exercise in which Rajesh Gopal, NTCA member-secretary; Shankar Singh of the WII; V.P. Singh Badnore, MP and convener of the State Empowered Committee; and P.S. Somasekhar, Field Director, Sariska, joined hands. Parag Nigam and Qumar Qureishi of the WII accompanied the tiger in the helicopter.

Mr. Parmesh Chandra said that within a year three more tigers would be introduced in Sariska. Next in line are a tigress, a male, and a female.

The authorities have sanctioned Rs.50 crore for the development of Sariska, Mr. Chandra said. Considering the vulnerability of tigers and other such species to poaching during the monsoon, the Rajasthan government has decided to deploy a company each of the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary in the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, and Ranthambore.

Poaching and a vanishing habitat have hit tiger numbers in India over the years. They were believed to number in the tens of thousands a century ago but the population has dropped from nearly 3,600 five years ago to about 1,400, according to an official tiger census done across the country in February 2008.

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