Move to Release 'Straying' Tiger in Similipal Fraught with Danger - The New Indian Express

Move to Release 'Straying' Tiger in Similipal Fraught with Danger

Published: 14th December 2013 09:40 AM

Last Updated: 14th December 2013 12:40 PM

From Satkosia to Nandankanan Zoo, the wild tiger strayed way too far into captivity. But the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s decision to release it in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) could be a move fraught with extreme danger, not only for the solitary large cat but also for the host tiger population of Odisha’s critical tiger habitat.

 Difference in habitat and terrains apart, the challenge for the new tiger in STR will be in adaptation since it will most likely end up tinkering with the existing social structure of the local tiger population, which could prove disastrous and fatal.

 Re-introduction of tiger in a virgin habitat is altogether a concept different from introducing a tiger in a reserve which has a host population. The 2010 tiger estimation by NTCA had put the number of large cats in Similipal at about 23 __ in the range of 12 to 34, to be precise.

 Thanks to the conservation efforts by the STR management, Similipal’s tiger population has since shown encouraging signs of stabilising with cubs sighted by forest officials as well as captured in-camera traps, but there is no way either the NTCA or the State Wildlife Wing can ensure that releasing the tiger in Similipal will not interfere in the social and territorial structures of the local tiger population.

 For, the tiger population of STR is more or less confined to southern part of the reserve.

 “Once released, can it be assured that this tiger will not kill cubs or engage with local males potentially killing them or killing itself? Even if this tiger is released in northern Similipal, the southern core will just be a single night’s walk for it. Besides, it cannot be ruled out that the tiger will not get drawn into conflict with humans or prey on livestock __ a phenomenon hitherto rare among Similipal’s tigers,” points out wildlife conservationist Aditya Panda.

 What is logic-defying is the Wildlife Wing’s reluctance to release the tiger in Satkosia, its habitat of origin. Six years after it was notified as a TR, Satkosia is virtually devoid of tigers now.

 “The reason behind the Wildlife Wing’s reluctance in releasing the wild tiger in Satkosia could be in the fact that it has failed to build community support there and the management is shying away from taking the risk expecting a community backlash,” said an insider of the department.

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