Officials from the Nagpur forest department think they may have found the location where Jai, the seven-year-old tiger missing from Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary near Nagpur in April, could be.
Forest officials told HT on Wednesday that pug marks of a large tiger found 30km away from the sanctuary towards Pauni Betala village in Bhandara district on Tuesday could be of Jai.
“The pug marks have been spotted at a location that is adjacent to our sanctuary,” said Srinivas Reddy, chief conservator of forest (territorial), Nagpur, and in-charge of Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary. “We were informed by local NGOs that visited the site and a local newspaper. We have deployed a team of forest officers from Umred Karhandla to investigate the area and confirm the missing tiger’s presence.”
Reddy said that Jai was last spotted on May 7, 20 days after he went missing, in forests near Brahmapuri, Chandrapur. “Our team was informed by local forest guards from there but by the time we reached the spot, the tiger had relocated again,” said Reddy.
The tiger was thought to be missing after forest officials failed to detect signals from the radio collar – a device that allows forest officers to detect its movement. Believed to be one of the largest tigers in the Vidarbha range, Jai, who is estimated to weigh 250kg, came to Umred Karhandla from the New Nagzira Navegaon Tiger Reserve (NNTR), about 80km towards the east, in 2013 looking for a mate. Jai was the lone male tiger across the 190 square-kilometre sanctuary until he fathered nine cubs – seven males and two females. Jai got a tracking collar in September 2015 and a second one in March 2016 after the first one was damaged.
Forest officers said that Jai had left the sanctuary in search of a new territory and it is unlikely that he may return to Umred Karhandla. “This is a natural process of translocation and a common trait for the big cat. Jai’s seven male offsprings are now three years old and he cannot kill his own sons to dominate the territory,” said Reddy.
Meanwhile, forest officers from Bhandara district said that they had started their search based on the reports of the pug marks. “We have not received directives from the Nagpur forest department yet. However, on the basis of local information, we have begun investigating areas where pug marks of the tiger have been spotted,” said Umesh Udal Verma, deputy conservator of forest, Bhandara division.
Jai had wandered in the past
Chandrapur circle officers said that this was not the first time the tiger had stepped out of his territory. “There have been numerous instances where our divisional officers have been informed about Jai’s presence at different (forest) divisions in Chandrapur and across Vidarbha,” said Sanjay Thakre, chief conservator of forest, Chandrapur. “Before the tiger’s radio collar stopped working, data was regularly being exchanged between Nagpur and Chandrapur forest divisions. There were also reports of cattle deaths prior to April.”
However, Nagpur forest officers said that this was the first time that Jai had been out of Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary for so long. “We had identified that within a month Jai was outside the protected sanctuary for about 20 days but would return to his territory after that. But this is the first time that the big cat has not come back for three months now, which is worrisome,” said TSK Reddy, chief conservator of forest (territorial), Nagpur.