For the past couple of weeks, visitors at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Borivli, have been met with an unusual sight. Spotted deer have been seen moving inside the same areas as that of tigers, in the park’s safari territory.
Last week, local wildlife activists and Peace for Animals Welfare Association (PAWA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) wrote a letter to the chief conservator of forest, SGNP, alleging that allowing deer to roam in the area occupied by tigers is making them live prey for the big cats, and is in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA), 1960.
SGNP officials said all efforts are being made to bring the deer out of the danger zone.
According to officials, 15 deer entered the confines of the tiger safari when a broken fence was being repaired some weeks ago. The safari is home to three Royal Bengal tigers – two in secondary cages and one roaming freely.
“We have caged the third tiger as well until the deer are brought back into their original habitat,” said Vikas Gupta, director and chief conservator of forest. “Since it is a 50-acre natural forested area, it is not an easy process to remove these animals,” he said.
Recently, forest officers kept a trail of the deer’s favourite food – green leafy vegetables and chickpea – to lure them to a safe zone.
“The deer did not respond to this method. We are trying to devise other techniques to drive them out, but we might have to resort to the last option of tranquilising them and then shifting them. However, this can be dangerous to their health, even fatal,” said Gupta.
A team of officers is on standby at the park to ensure no untoward incident takes place, said officials.
Gupta said there have been no reports of any animal conflicts yet.
“All options are being explored, in consultation with experts. However, one needs to realise these tigers are being fed beef and chicken on a daily basis; they are not hunters,” he said.
Sachin Roy, wildlife activist, spotted the deer within the confines of the tiger safari area and approached the PAWA.
“The tigers may be harmless, but it is their natural habitat where the deer have trespassed into. It is natural that a conflict may take place if the animals’ come face-to-face,” he said.