It had all the ingredients of a much-hyped cricket match delayed due to bad weather. A hungry crowd (in this case, a large media contingent), desperate officials (they have already missed two deadlines since June 15 due to an early monsoon), repeated ground inspections and frayed tempers.
Finally, the overnight showers that threatened to pour cold water on the government’s last-ditch effort, relented at 11 am. By 12.45 pm, a 220-kg, four-year-old Ranthambhore tiger gingerly walked out of a cage into his new home — a one-hectare chain-link enclosure at Nayapani in Sariska.
The tiger will be monitored in the enclosure for a few days and fed with live bait. The first of the five big cats to be shifted from Ranthambhore, the tiger is soon expected to have the company of a tigress and a rival male.
But it’s too early to predict if the striped cat will be able to reclaim this tiger forest. The suspense won’t be over even when, and if, all five animals are released. Sariska will have to wait for the second generation — a good litter — and keep fingers crossed till the cubs grow up.
Meanwhile, the large media contingent waited a kilometre away till they spotted the family of Rajasthan Forest Minister Pratap Singh Singhvi moving in to enjoy “the tiger show”. A few uncomfortable questions later, the media were promised escorted access to the enclosures.
Finally, around 2 pm, reporters took turns in government vehicles to peep into the enclosure. The thick monsoon undergrowth made sure that the jetlagged tiger had his privacy.