The shrinking Big Cat population at the Sariska Tiger Reserve may get a timely boost. Forest officials say the tiger and tigress airlifted from Ranthambhore under the tiger reintroduction project could have mated.
On June 28, an Indian Air Force helicopter shifted a three-year-old tiger cub from Ranthambhore to Sariska. A week later, a tigress was also flown in and kept in an adjacent enclosure.
When the two were released in the jungle they went in opposite directions — giving restless nights to the forest department staff and officials.
But the couple has been spotted together for the past one week and there are indications they could have mated.
“On the basis of feedback received from field officials, I can say with certainty that the tiger and tigress have mated during past five days. They are still cohabiting near a water pond in the forest that is lush green these days due to heavy rains,” says Sunayan Sharma, deputy conservator of forests, Tiger Project Sariska.
“Through radio collars, field officials monitored that the tiger and tigress haven’t killed a prey for the past one week — which is a general tendency after mating,” Sharma said.
Signs of conception include consumption of grass for folic acid, shrinking habitat and search for safe hideouts.
Usually a tigress takes 90-110 days from conception to delivery and the pregnancy becomes apparent by the sixth week.
The relocation, jointly conducted by the Rajasthan forest department, the Wildlife Institute of India, the ministry of defence along with the national tigers conservation authority, was the first such attempt in the country.
By 2009 monsoon, Sariska’s dry deciduous forest is poised to echo with roars of predator cubs, added Soma Shekhar, Director of Sariska Tiger Reserve.
Spread over 881.11 sq km, the Sariska Reserve Forest has been gradually rendered tiger-less by unscrupulous poachers over the past several decades.