Conceding that the tigers of Ranthambhore may not be able to ensure “genetic vigour” in the population being raised in Sariska, Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh has written to the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra requesting them for a few tigers for Sariska.
An HT investigation (June 29, 2009) exposed how siblings were sent from Ranthambhore to repopulate Sariska. Following the report, the tiger relocation process was put on hold, a DNA analysis of Ranthambhore tigers was ordered and genetic tests proved that the tigers sent to Sariska were indeed siblings.
Forest and the wildlife establishment had so far resisted the demand for sourcing tigers from outside Rajasthan. While some argued that the purity of Rajasthan tigers was at stake, others felt inter-state talks on shifting tigers would hit roadblocks.
But in his letters sent this week to CMs Ashok Chavan and Shivraj Singh, Ramesh wrote: "To bring in genetic vigour, we need a few wild caught tigers (males and females) for Sariska from adjoining states…I would appreciate if two straying males are provided at the outset to Rajasthan…"
Welcoming the decision, conservationist Valmik Thapar said, "...We can also look at an exchange as the male that has so far failed to breed with his siblings in Sariska should now be sent to Panna (MP)..."
Sariska may get its fourth tiger much sooner if any of the three Ranthambhore tigers shortlisted for relocation are found to be genetically compatible. The DNA report of these tigers is expected from Bangalore-based National Centre for Biological Sciences this Friday. If the tests are negative Sariska, may have to wait for a positive response from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.