24 Mar 2008, 1431 hrs IST,IANS
JAIPUR: The Rajasthan forest department has identified three tigers in Ranthambore national park for their rehabilitation in Sariska tiger reserve as part of the government’s plan to reintroduce the big cats in the reserve after they were wiped out by poachers over three years ago.
The exercise to identify the tigers has started after the prime minister’s office gave a clearance to the department’s rehabilitation project recently, the officials said on Monday. The tigers are between 20 and 30 months old.
The Sariska tiger reserve has an area of around 866 sq km, and is located some 110 km from Rajasthan capital Jaipur. The reserve is also home to leopards, different varieties of deer, jungle cats and birds, among others.
“We have identified three tigers and as per plan one of the tigress would be first brought to Sariska from Ranthambore. After a few months one more tigress and a male tiger would join her. All of them would be radio collared,” a senior official of the forest department said.
He said initially these wild cats would be kept in enclosures and their activities would be monitored.
“The tigers would be introduced in a seven-hectare enclosed area. Once they are acclimatised to the new habitat, they would be let out into the wild,” the official said.
According to the proposal, five tigers would be brought here in a span of three years for rehabilitation, the official said. The date of shifting the remaining two tigers would be decided later.
Around Rs155 million has been earmarked for the rehabilitation exercise.
The Ranthambore national park, from where the tigers will be relocated, has an area of around 400 sq km and is situated in the Sawai Madhopur district, some 175 km from here. It is considered one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. It was declared a national park in 1981.
As per the recent census, the park has 32 tigers, up from 26 in 2005, as per a state government census. “We are optimistic that we would be able to successfully implement it, as Sariska forests are in good health with adequate prey base for the tigers,” he said.
“If everything goes as per our plan, Sariska should have tigers by the end of this year,” he added.
One of the priorities was to create a tiger-friendly environment before undertaking the rehabilitation exercise, he said.
Meanwhile, the relocation of villages from inside the tiger reserve has started and only after their relocation would the tigers be released in the wild.
In October last year, the Bhagani village in Tehla forest range was relocated to an alternative site near Behor in Alwar district, some 100 km from Sariska. The village was located in the heart of the reserve. The process of shifting the second village, Kankwari, has already started.
After the tigers were wiped out of the reserve in 2004, the central government had decided to reintroduce the big cats there, provided the state government created a safe habitat for the tigers.
The Tiger Task Force in the ministry of environment and forests had recommended the relocation of four villages in a time-bound plan, though there are 28 villages in all in the core area of the reserve.
Out of the four, the relocation of Bhagani village is complete. A second village will have to be relocated before the tigers can be reintroduced in the forest.
“After fully relocating two of the villages, we plan to start the process of rehabilitating the tigers,” the official said.
The other two villages would be relocated later.
In the recent past, the state government and forest department had faced criticism from various quarters over the disappearance of tigers from the reserve.
A report brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India in March 2005 had confirmed that there were no tigers left in the reserve, although an official census conducted the previous year had indicated the existence of 16 to 18 tigers in the reserve. Poaching was blamed for the disappearance of the tigers.
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