It is final. The straying wild tiger, which is currently lodged at Nandankanan Zoological Park, will go to Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), not Satkosia which once happened to be its home.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had sought the advice of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) following a recommendation in this regard from the State Wildlife Wing. Reliable sources said the WTA studied the proposal and has recommended that the tiger could be released in Similipal where conditions will suit the large cat.
The change in mind by the Wildlife Wing came after the Field Director of Satkosia Tiger Reserve expressed reluctance over relocation plans and shot off a letter to the then Chief Wildlife Warden JD Sharma.
This prompted the State to seek a change of plan and Similipal was prescribed as the alternative to the NTCA. “On the State’s suggestion, the NTCA sought the advice of WTI which studied the proposal and recommended to relocate the tiger in Similipal. However, we are yet to receive the letter from NTCA,” acting Chief Wildlife Warden BP Singh told this paper. Similipal was chosen over Satkosia because of certain advantages. The large protected area, prey base and overall tiger population apparently went in its favour. “However, there is still a lot of ground work to do for us. After we receive the letter from NTCA, we will have to identify a suitable site where the tiger can be released. We will have to ensure that it is a no-conflict zone,” Singh said.
Since tigers are fiercely territorial in nature, the Wildlife Wing will have to zero in on a site where there are no other males around. Besides, issues such as radio-collaring and proximity of human habitations will also have to be taken into account. Familiarising the wild tiger to the site will also be kept in mind when relocation is decided.
The decision to release the tiger in Similipal could trigger a huge debate since Satkosia, already a low-density tiger reserve, is virtually tiger-less by now and this could have been used as an opportunity to improve the tiger population by way of re-introducing females from other parts.
In his letter to the Chief Wildlife Warden, FD of Satkosia Tiger Reserve Pandav Behera had admitted that not enough pug marks have been detected while scat collection by DFOs is almost nil.
The straying wild tiger which had walked into the Zoo in April before escaping and re-entering its premises is housed in a non-exhibit enclosure since June.