Sariska Tiger Reserve now has 15 big cats, of which seven are female, three male and five cubs.(PTI File Photo/ Representive Image)
Sariska Tiger Reserve now has 15 big cats, of which seven are female, three male and five cubs.(PTI File Photo/ Representive Image)

Forest department plans to bring MP tigers to Sariska

Under the original tiger reintroduction program of National Tiger Conservation Authority started in 2008, around 20 tigers were to be reintroduced in Sariska Tiger Reserve
By Sachin Saini | Hindustan Times, Jaipur
UPDATED ON JUN 20, 2019 12:27 PM IST

The forest department plans to bring two-three big cats from Madhya Pradesh under tiger reintroduction programme for Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar in order to avoid inbreeding and create a fresh gene pool of tigers in Rajasthan.

Three tigresses relocated to STR did not have litters and are probably infertile.

Inbreeding is the production of offspring from the mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically.

Under the original tiger reintroduction program of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) started in 2008, around 20 tigers were to be reintroduced in Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) in Alwar district of Rajasthan. Of which nine till date have been reintroduced in STR. Four of them -- three males and a female -- died due to various reasons such as poisoning (ST-1), territorial fight (ST-4), poaching (ST-5) and heat stroke (ST-16).

STR now has 15 big cats, of which seven are female, three male and five cubs.

A senior forest official on condition of anonymity said three tigresses relocated to STR did not have litters and are probably infertile. “The NTCA suggests bringing young tigers for reintroduction, but whether they are fertile or not, remains a question. Recently, a tigress called lightning was relocated to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve in Kota from Ranthambore. Before that move, she gave litters and it was clear that she can breed,” he said.

He added that of the three male tigers, ST-4 (now dead) had two cubs; ST-13 three cubs; ST-6 and 3 have not bred yet; and ST-15 is a sub-adult.

Sources in the department said the state along with submitting a factual report on the death of ST-16 has also made a number of suggestions such as a review of the original tiger re-introduction project and its implementation to be done at the level of NTCA, strengthening STR administration by reorganization of divisions and deployment of more staff, and appointing a veterinarian against a vacant post at STR.

The official said the problem areas need to be identified and viable solution has to be find out. The official pointed out that Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh was also under tiger reintroduction program and the success there is visible, but in Sariska it’s not.

“We are considering bringing tigers from MP in order to get fresh genes. In the recent death of ST-16, cancer is suspected...,” he said.

“When tigers in Sariska became extinct in 2008, the population at RTR (Ranthambore Tiger Reserve) was around 14, with just two male tigers. The genes of tiger T-2 can be found in majority of tigers,” he said.

Associate professor at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Uma Ramakrishnan, who studied genomes of tigers at RTR, said, “We have sequenced and studied genomes of Ranthambore tigers. Our analyses suggest RTR tigers are isolated, have low genetic variation, are related to each other, and inbred. Inbreeding depression is when inbred tigers have a lower chance of survival. We (and others) do not see telltale signs of inbreeding depression yet. Further research in the coming years is needed to investigate this.”

Expressing concerns over the tigers in STR, general secretary, Sariska Tiger Foundation, Dinesh Durani in a letter to principal chief conservator forest, Madhya Pradesh states that despite relocation from Ranthambore, ST-3 and ST-5 (missing) tigress could not deliver cubs. There could be a number of reasons for it, but among its major factor could be inbreeding. “The foundation strongly believes the reason of two tigresses’ failure could be inbreeding,” he said.

He sought an exchange of tigers, which will not only improve the gene-pool but will affect the growth of the tiger count.

Durani told HT that one of the reasons why tiger population flourished in Panna National Park is that there the tigers that were introduced were from different places such as Bandhavgarh National Park; Kanha National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. BOX:

On June 8, tiger ST-16 in STR died of heat stroke. The forest department has sent a sample for pathological examination to Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad. The results are awaited. The forest official says that the tiger died of heat stroke and possibly was suffering from cancer or septicemia, which might have contributed to the animal not being able to deal with the heat

The tiger, known as T-75 at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve was renamed ST-16 after relocation, and is the fourth of the nine relocated tigers to Sariska that met an untimely death.

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