The five-year-old tiger did not wait for the Wildlife Wing’s decision to regain its freedom. More than a month after it walked into Nandankanan Zoological Park, the master predator escaped to the wild late on Saturday scaling the 18-foot wall of an enclosure, where it was transferred last night.
Chief Wildlife Warden J D Sharma has asked the zoo management to submit a report on the incident. Apprehending that the tiger’s escape might trigger panic in villages lying close to the zoo, the Divisional Forest Officer of Chandaka, Nandankanan, and the City Division, have been asked to alert locals.
Sharma, who rushed to the zoo in the morning, took stock of the incident. Director of Nandankanan Zoo Sudarshan Panda has also deployed a team which will patrol the sanctuary to track the large cat while placing pressure impression pads (PIPs) to collect pugmarks of the feline.
The tiger had walked into the zoo safari on April 30 after roaming the forests of Chandaka and before that Athgarh and Dhenkanal.
However, its entry snowballed into a controversy with a section demanding its release into the wild while another seeking that it remain in captivity for breeding. The Chief Wildlife Warden constituted a technical panel and sought feedbacks from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) on its recommendations to arrive at a decision.
The tiger, it seems, was in no mood to wait though. For the whole month that it was in the 12-acre safari, it consumed the feed arranged by the zoo authorities and chose its resting place. It made no attempt to escape.
However, the very first move to shift it to an off-exhibit enclosure for its better management saw the large cat scale the iron wall and free itself from confinement. “The Central Zoo Authority guidelines prescribe a 16-foot height for enclosure wall, but this enclosure wall was higher. The tiger apparently climbed the walls using the angle irons fitted at 8 feet and 16 feet height to support the structure. There is enough evidence of it walking on top of the wall,” Sharma said.
Zoo Director Panda said the CCTV footage shows the tiger entering the enclosure at 9.05 pm and staying there till 11.30 pm. But during its attempt to escape, it damaged one camera and the wires while leaving the video capture broken. However, its pictures of going away have been captured.
Once the news spread, visitors to the zoo were panicked, but were given a word of assurance by the authorities. Residents of the surrounding villages met the zoo officials and expressed their concern. Sharma said people in the nearby villages are being requested to remain vigil during the morning and evening hours and not to go into the forests alone.