Minutes after his eighth sunrise in captivity, the male tiger from Ranthambore walked out of his one-hectare enclosure on Sunday morning to discover his new 800 sq km kingdom of Sariska. Taking one of three possible routes — all leading to the Kalighati area in the centre of Sariska — created by park officials through a funneling effect outside the enclosure gate, he moved on to make a goat kill.
Being monitored round-the-clock by three teams of scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the forest staff, the radio-collared tiger still has the easy option to continue on a goat diet for a few days more. Like on Sunday morning, when three goats were put on the three possible tracks, officials will continue to offer the tiger live bait till he starts showing definite signs of settling down. Of course, the big cat has the freedom to go for wild prey, which is available in plenty.
The decision to continue with live bait, according to sources, overruled an alternative strategy considered earlier last week. That idea was to keep the tiger hungry for a couple of days before releasing him so that he does not wait around looking for livestock and rushes to make a wild kill.
In fact, the tiger’s freedom was delayed after he made a goat kill inside the enclosure on Wednesday. Subsequently, the arrival of the tigress on Friday and heavy pilgrim traffic on Saturday prolonged his stay inside the enclosure.
On Sunday, a team of WII scientists swung into action at around 2.15 a.m. They prepared a pug impression pad with fine dust and set up a camera trap at the gate of the enclosure to record the tiger’s exit. Then the team waited for the first light of day before opening the gates of the enclosure at 4.30 a.m. The tiger stepped out an hour later.
After consuming the goat he killed at 6.30 a.m., he spent his first few hours of freedom in a leisurely survey of a 2 sq km area between the enclosure and Kalighati. Later, he made a few short trips up and down the hillocks. Under an overcast sky and intermittent drizzle, he seemed to have taken it easy the first day.