T1C2, female cub of Avni, now a sub-adult tigress, aged two-and-a-half years, has been kept in captivity in a 4.5-hectare (ha) area in Pench Tiger Reserve since December 22, 2018.(Maharashtra Forest Department.)
T1C2, female cub of Avni, now a sub-adult tigress, aged two-and-a-half years, has been kept in captivity in a 4.5-hectare (ha) area in Pench Tiger Reserve since December 22, 2018.(Maharashtra Forest Department.)

NTCA approves release of tigress Avni’s cub into the wild: Maharashtra forest department

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON NOV 28, 2020 12:06 AM IST

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has approved the release of the female cub of alleged man-eater tigress T1 back into the wild at Pench Tiger Reserve, in Nagpur. The decision was taken during a meeting between NTCA and Maharashtra’s forest department on Friday.

The cub, T1C2, is now a sub-adult (two-and-half years old) tigress and has been in captivity in a 4.5-hectare (ha) enclosure at Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) since December 22, 2018. T1C2 was captured after T1, popularly known as Avni, was shot dead by a father-son hunter duo after it was said that she killed 13 people in Pandharkawada forest in Ralegaon, Yavatmal. Avni’s male cub (T1C1), which the department failed to capture in 2018, was last spotted in Yavatmal’s Pandharkawada forest area in December 2019, but there have been no sightings since, said the forest department.

The release of T1C2 is being planned for this winter. “There was a very positive response from NTCA about T1C2’s release. We are planning her release as soon as possible after we get the minutes of the meeting from NTCA. It will be done in winter as it is the right time for the release of such tigers in the wild,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Maharashtra.

A senior forest official, requesting anonymity, said three locations were shortlisted for release: Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) in Gondia, Gadchiroli; Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur; and Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati. “We narrowed down to Pench as the most suitable area for the tigress’ release as there is a high prey base, the animal is already used to the area, and the staff is better trained than other areas. NNTR was not chosen as it has too many villages and does not have a good prey base for tigers.”

NTCA officials could not be reached for comment.

T1C2 was initially to be released into the wild post-monsoon in 2019, but the frequency of kills did not meet NTCA’s standard operating procedure for tigers in the wild. However, on July 3, during a meeting chaired by Kakodkar with forest officials and the committee constituted in November 2018 to oversee the cub’s capture, it was decided the cub was fit for release.

“T1C2 is presently healthy and continues to show all traits of a tigress that can hunt and kill in the wild as well as learnt how to mark her territory. We are confident she will be able to survive well on her own,” said Kakodkar.

10-YEAR-OLD BOY KILLED IN LEOPARD ATTACK AT BEED

A 10-year-old boy was killed in a leopard attack in Kinhi village, Ashti tehsil in Maharashtra’s Beed district on Friday. Forest officials are trying to trap the animal. The incident took place when the boy, Swaraj Bhapkar, was playing at his uncle’s farm. The leopard attacked him and dragged his body a few metres away from the farm. Bhapkar is the 24th human kill by leopards in 2020, the highest in at least 10 years. The year has also recorded 159 leopard deaths in Maharashtra, which is the highest in five years.

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