Sariska tigers mate, first litter by monsoon end

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Sariska tigers mate, first litter by monsoon end

8 Jun 2009, 0041 hrs IST, Abantika Ghosh, TNN

NEW DELHI: More than four years after the Sariska Tiger Reserve earned worldwide notoriety for having lost its entire tiger population, hopes are high that the reserve will finally have its “own” tigers again.

The three relocated tigers – two females and a male, all of them from Ranthambore – have taken to their new habitat very well and have been mating. Two were recently “caught in the act” by a Wildlife Institute of India researcher and the second tigress – which has been mating with the male since November – according to WII officials, is in the family way.

Tigers have a gestation period of about 100 days and WII experts expect the first litter to arrive before the end of the monsoon.

According to WII research coordinator K Shankar, the two tigresses are aware of each other’s presence but have not met so far probably because “they are keen to avoid confrontation.” While one of them has settled in Bagani – the site of a village which was relocated out of Sariska last year as part of the initiative to make the forest safer for tigers – the other, pregnant female has marked the Sariska-Kalighatti valley as its “territory.” It was the Bagani female which was photographed with the tiger. The first tiger was brought to Sariska on June 28, 2008, the second on July 5 and the third on February 25 this year.

Shankar said mating does not necessarily result in pregnancy because tigers have induced ovulation. “The female releases the egg only when she is comfortable enough in her surroundings and feels that she is ready to raise a litter. The Kalighatti female seems to have done so,” he said.

Happy as they are at the prospect of the striped beauties returning to Sariska, Shankar said there was hardly any doubt that the tigers would breed. As members of the cat family, tigers are prolific maters. The real challenge, he added, is to save the coming generation from meeting the same fate as their predecessors in the forest.

“Tigers did not die out from Sariska. They were poached. There is an elaborate plan in place now to protect them. There are 100 homeguards and another 100 ex-servicemen who have been recruited. All the older guards have been shifted out of forest duty so that there is an entire staff of young people patrolling the forest. Poaching routes have been identified and the intelligence network has been strengthened,” Shankar said.

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