Big cat population on rise in Rajasthan, 49 cubs born in last 6 years | jaipur | Hindustan Times
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Big cat population on rise in Rajasthan, 49 cubs born in last 6 years

The growth chart is led by Ranthambore where 40 cubs have been born.

jaipur Updated: Jun 03, 2018 22:13 IST
Sachin Saini
Sachin Saini
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
A tiger cub in Ranthambore.
A tiger cub in Ranthambore. (HT File Photo)

Tiger reserves in Rajasthan have added 49 cubs to its thriving big cat population in last seven years. Thanks to increased monitoring, healthy prey base, and a curb on illegal activities, the state is now home to 85 tigers — including 70 in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (RTR), 14 in Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR), and a recently translocated male at Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR).

The growth chart is led by Ranthambore where 40 cubs have been born to 18 tigresses in six years beginning 2013. Sariska, which lost all its big cats in 2005 and where eight tigers were translocated from Ranthambore in 2008, added nine cubs, including two that were born to ST-14 last month, to the count. ST-10 and ST-2 were the first to give birth to two cubs each in 2012.

Incidentally, of the eight big cats translocated to Sariska, one was poisoned in 2010. It was among 12 tigers that died in Rajasthan in last seven years.

Forest officials are ecstatic at the steady growth in tiger numbers but warn of perils too.

“It is a good thing that the tiger numbers have gone up in Rajasthan, but it also worries us. We need to work on developing corridors (between the reserves) so that the big cat population is dispersed properly. We do not want human-animal conflict and translocation of big cats,” GV Reddy, chief wildlife warden, said.

He said the department is making efforts to protect and increase the inviolate areas. Forests in Rajasthan have capacity to hold 150-200 tigers.

Ranthambore field director YK Sahu attributed the growth to the improved protection of the tiger habitat and rehabilitation of villagers living in forest area, curbing illegal activities such as poaching and increasing prey base for the big cats. The core area of Ranthambore is good for breeding, he said.

STR field director Govind Sagar Bharadwaj said with the increase in the number of tigers, the pressure of human interference too has increased. “Efforts are being made to create some inviolate areas for the big cats,” he said.

Rajasthan’s chief wildlife warden GV Reddy had earlier described the rise in tiger numbers as “an achievement and a morale booster”, considering the high mortality rate in big cats due to natural and anthropogenic causes. The state witnessed some suspicious deaths of tigers too.

Apart from one that died of poisoning in 2010 in Sariska, another, four-year-old male ST-11 was found dead after getting stuck in the barbed wire fence on a farmland on March 19 this year. Adding to the mystery is the case of a tigress that has been missing from Sariska since February this year. The 12-year-old ST-5, which was last sighted on February 21 with male tiger ST-11 in the Umri area of the reserve, is now presumed dead.

At Ranthambore, a total of nine deaths have been recorded since 2013, including that of the two cubs of T-79 in April 2018. Prior to that, in March, 13-year-old tiger T-28, aka ‘star’ died. T-28 was suffering from gastric torsion in cardia.

Reddy, who is also a member of Standing Committee of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL), said that in a meeting of the body in April, several recommendations were made to prevent poaching of tigers in Sariska. The recommendations included fitting tigers with GPS-enable radio collars, round-the-clock monitoring by separate teams and relocation of villages from the reserve’s periphery.

Officials said the core areas of five popular wildlife sanctuaries in Rajasthan – Sariska, Ranthambore, Mukundra, Jhalana and Jawaibag – will soon be equipped with hi-tech wildlife surveillance and anti-poaching system, an advanced surveillance mechanism to ensure effective monitoring and conservation of endangered wild animals, especially tigers and leopards. The state aims to install a hi-tech mechanism comprising drones, thermal-imaging cameras, high-resolution optical and dome cameras, data centres and radio sets.