Well-known tiger conservationist and former member of Tiger Task Force, Valmik Thapar strongly objected to radio collaring of iconic tiger Jai that has been missing since April 18. It is suspected that the big cat may have been poached.
“I am worried about Jai. Why was a radio collar fitted on the tiger and why is it not functioning?” asked Thapar and asserted that the Wildlife Institute of India, which was instrumental for radio collaring of the 7-year-old tiger, should be held accountable for defunct collar.
Thapar, who worked extensively on tiger movement and its conservation, said he was against of radio collaring of tigers. “Why don’t we allow the big cats to move around in their natural way, and why is it necessary to radio collar each and every tiger?” he asked. Several big cats in India and other countries, particularly Sundarbans of Bangladesh died of radio collaring, sometimes because of infection or other reasons.
Wildlife expert Dr Bilal Habib of Wildlife Institute of India fitted radio-collar to Jai last year and it had not working for the last seven-eight months.
About the on-going search for Jai, Thapar said it would be very difficult to locate tigers in monsoon and did not rule out the possibility of Jai being poached or dead. Jai, went missing on April 18 from Paoni forest range of Umred-Karhandla near Nagpur. The tiger entered Umred forest by migrating nearly 150 kms from Nagzira-Navegaon tiger reserve in Gondia-Bhandara district in September 2013, crossing several villages and even the Mumbai-Kolkata national highway.
The tiger’s disappearance led to a lot of concern among wildlife lovers, NGOs, tourists, conservationists and forest officials.
Meanwhile, the two suspected poachers arrested by the forest department on Tuesday accused of killing Jai, were released on bail on Thursday by a lower court at Paoni.
The forest department had arrested Kisan Samarth and Madhukar Hatwar from Kodurli village near Umred wildlife sanctuary. Both were arrested after the department got an anonymous complaint about Jai being poached.
The forest department seized 20 wire snares and sharp edged weapons from the house of Samarth. Offences were registered against both under sections of 9, 50 and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act. “We have still not ascertained whether they have poached the missing tiger. Investigation is on and they will be summoned by the forest department during the investigation if required,” informed a senior forest official.