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Missing tigress: Sariska officials call experts from WII, Dehradun, for help

The big cat has been missing for more than three weeks.

jaipur Updated: Mar 19, 2018 22:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Rajasthan news
Forest officials and WII team make a temporary water body for intensive camera trapping in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Alwar.(HT Photo)

The forest department has sought help from scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to track a missing tigress, which went off the radar more than three weeks ago.

The 12-year-old tigress (ST-5) had gone off the radar on February 24. The tigress was last cited on February 21 with a four-year-old male tiger (ST-11) in Umri area of the reserve and there it was observed that the radio collar was not functioning.

Sources said the radio collar has been defunct since February 7.

The Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR) administration has ordered over 70 additional camera traps for clues to track the tigress. At present, 50 cameras have been installed and more will be installed near water bodies.

“We are leaving no stone unturned to locate the tigress. Day and night forest department personnel are working on it. We have also asked scientists from WII for assistance and they will be joining the search soon. WII scientist Parag Nigam is part of the tiger monitoring project,” said chief conservator of forest and field director Sariska Tiger Project (Alwar) Govind Sagar Bharadwaj.

After searching the tigress’ home range — Umri-Kemala-Sukola-Devdi in the core area of the reserve — the forest department has now started combing the Pandupole area.

With the tigress missing for three weeks, wildlife lovers and experts are now raising questions about the security of wildlife. “STR has an overall area of about 800 sq km and a core area of approximately 500 sq km, with a total 14 tigers – nine female and five males – but it lacks the adequate number of personnel to protect the area. Also, the Special Tiger Protection Force, announced by the central government, has also not been constituted,” said an expert on the condition of anonymity.

Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) is dedicated to protecting wildlife and mitigating human-animal conflict. In 2014-15, STPF was provided to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, comprising 112 police personnel. The personnel are used for patrolling and conducting raids if required to protect wildlife, said a senior forest official, who did not want to be named as he not authorised to speak to the media.

“STPF will soon be deployed at the STR and a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Union ministry of environment and forest in January this year,” added the official.

Speaking on the shortage of manpower, the official said, “Looking at the potential threat to wildlife and the human-dominated landscape, we have sent a proposal to the state government demanding deployment of additional forces. At present, STR has around 108 forest guards out of the sanctioned 125 posts.”

The official said that the missing tigress raises five possibilities – she had changed her movement; given birth; died due to poisoning; died due to old age; and poaching. At present, the focus is on locating her and ruling out the other possibilities.

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 22:05 IST