Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) authorities have constituted a seven member Tiger Cell that will exclusively monitor, plan and ensure safety of translocated big cats. A Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) is also in the making.
The step comes three years after the plan to translocate tigers to the western part of the reserve, home to only two tigresses, was mooted. The western part, spread over 570 sqkm, hasn’t reported breeding since 2003. A 1.2 km long and 3 km wide corridor splits the reserve into two halves preventing the movement of tigers between the eastern and the western sides.
“We have constituted the cell and soon we will constitute the force as well. We are all geared up to translocate the tigers by Otcober-November,” Sanatan Sonkar director, Rajaji, told Hindustan Times.
Sonkar has just returned from a two-day tour of Sariska Tiger Reserve, the first such area where tiger translocation was carried out successfully. The purpose of the visit was to analyse the details and precautions needed for the process.
One of the keys to the successful translocation is monitoring of the big cats that would be introduced in the reserve. The Rajaji officials had trained 30 forest staff in 2016 and another 30 would be trained soon.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has given in principle approval to the reserve for translocation. But, the management is yet to submit a detailed plan to secure final approval.
“The visit gave us an insight into the details that were missing from our initial draft. We need to engage a full-time researcher, use radio collars that could be tracked through GPS as well as satellite and ensure proper medical attenetion (to the big cats) post translocation,” Sonkar added.
While Sonkar claims that the vulnerability of translocated tigers in Sariska was highest due to the lack of prey base, the condition in Rajaji is better.
He, however, added that there are patches in the “western part that are porous and highly risky” and that’s why they want to constitute the STPF at the earliest to man the area.
Rajaji’s 150-sqkm eastern part has a flourishing population of 13 tigers that are still growing. The western part has a potential to hold a bigger tiger population considering that it has only two tigresses.
As per the plan, two male and two female big cats would be translocated from Corbett landscape to the western part to ensure breeding.
The All India Tiger Estimation has recorded 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, second highest after Karnataka.