Relocation cry after tiger cub poisoning
RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR
Jaipur, March 8: The poisoning of two tiger cubs in Ranthambhore on Sunday has again brought into focus the growing human-animal conflict, with wildlife experts saying the big cat population in the park should either be relocated or provided more space.
Ranthambhore, covering 392 sqkm of dry deciduous forest, has 41 tigers, according to the 2009 census. With the older ones having formed their own territories, the cubs find it difficult to form their prey base in the core area. So they stray out of the park to the peripheral areas, teeming with human population, trying to establish their own boundaries. Chief wildlife warden R.N. Mehrotra said at least four cubs have been wandering for the last four months in the outer areas of Kota-Baran and Bund Baretha in Bharatpur-Dholpur districts.
“It is a scary situation. It is very difficult to track the cubs and bring them back to the park. We are trying our best, but fear that they may also face the same fate as the other two. Or they may get poached. This is happening with overcrowding and we want more space for these tigers,” Mehrotra said.
Two shepherds, Mukesh Gujjar and Ram Khullar Gujjar, have been arrested for the deaths of the cubs. They have confessed to lacing their dead goats with Aldrin — a pesticide — and leaving them, one hanging from a tree, the other under it, to be eaten by the tiger cubs.
The carcasses of the tiger siblings, born to the tigress Chitroli, were found at Talwara village, some 15km from the park, on Sunday. They seem to have vomited — which is usually caused by poisonous substances — and a goat carcass was found nearby.
Mehrotra said: “It seems to be an act of revenge killing. The shepherds say the tigers, more than two years old, have been hounding their goats for quite some time.”
Rajpal Singh, member of the state government’s Empowered Committee for Wildlife and Forests, said: “This is not something new but has been happening with surrounding villagers who are defensive about their domestic animals. When these tigers stray out in the ravines, they find it hard to get food and hence domestic animals become their prey base, which shows the increasing human-animal conflict.”
Wildlife observers said the core area, spread over 274.5 sq km, is too cramped for 41 tigers. As a result, younger ones stray to form their own territories.
The experts said there has been 200 tiger cub births over the past few years in Ranthambhore. In 1973, when Project Tiger began, there were just six to eight big cats in Ranthambhore. Now there are 41. Considering there have been 30 natural deaths, at least 170 of them should remain. “But where are they? Obviously poached,” said Singh.
The tiger is poached for its body parts to cater to an illegal trade.
At least 1.5 lakh tourists visit the park annually, giving the park a business revenue of over Rs 60 crore. The park permits 15 jeeps and 20 canters at a time, accommodating at most 460-475 visitors during one safari period, leading to considerable vehicular pollution. There are more 50 hotels around Ranthambhore.