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Dire need for advanced rescue, rehab centres for wild animals

Though the State Forest Department tranquilised and captured the Masinagudi tiger, the lack of a sophisticated wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre in the vicinity was sorely felt.

Published: 16th October 2021 06:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2021 08:30 AM   |  A+A-

The tiger was taken to the camp at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve after being tranquilized (Photo | Special arrangement)

Express News Service

Though the State Forest Department tranquilised and captured the Masinagudi tiger (officially MDT-23), the lack of a sophisticated wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre in the vicinity was sorely felt, which may even diminish the chances of the tiger surviving the ordeal.

Terming the tiger's health stable, Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu told TNIE, "We gave him medicines and put him on drips before transporting him to the 'closest' rescue centre at Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Garden in Karnataka's Mysore."

The preliminary medical examination of the tiger showed he was nursing 8-9 wounds, of which 3-4 were new, probably sustained during a territorial fight. Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj said none of the wounds were life-threatening, but the big cat was weak due to lack of enough food and water intake. "Treatment in the initial few days will be crucial."

Some of the field staff TNIE spoke with opined the State government should expedite the forest department's proposal to establish dedicated wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres. The government has given clearance to four rescue centres in the State, but wildlife experts say the government should prioritise the project and release funds at the earliest.  

N Sadiq Ali, founder of Nilgiris-based Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust, said organised rescue and rehabilitation provide the animals personalised care and improve chances of their survival. Mudumalai, Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Anamalai, and Sathyamangalam regions are hotspots of wild animal rescues.

Currently, rescued animals are rehabilitated inside squeeze cages with no dedicated structure to treat, monitor and scientifically release them. The rescue and temporary rehabilitation of these animals may range from a few days to months for complete recovery and, hence, a permanent full-fledged modern facility at Coimbatore division can prove beneficial in successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild animals in distress, said a senior forest official.

As per the forest department's proposal, northern Tamil Nadu is another epicentre of illegal trade in wildlife as Chennai serves as one of the exit gateway for illegal wildlife trade to South-East Asia and other parts of the world.

"On many occasions various enforcement agencies, e.g., the customs, DRI, and police make wild animal seizures, in many cases during the odd hours and look for immediate assistance from the forest department for rescue and care of animals. Hence, the existing rescue centre at Vandalur can be upscaled and brought under the ambit of Advanced Institute for Wildlife Conservation, to cater to the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals in northern districts of Tamil Nadu such as Chennai, Chenglepattu, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram," the proposal says.

The objective is to provide requisite housing, upkeep, and healthcare to distressed wild animals and aid scientific quarantine, rehabilitation, and release of wild animals in their original habitats, besides providing mandatory quarantine to seized or imported animals under specialised vet care to prevent pathogenic transmission, the official said.

Tiger's health

The animal was darted at 1.45 pm with 20 ML of sedative. The veterinarians treated the animal for four hours after its capture. Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Neeraj said 90 per cent of its health parameters are normal.

"All the four canine teeth are intact and paws look normal. The reason the tiger was straying into the nearby villages in search of easy prey may be because it lost agility, speed and strength to hunt prey in the wild." The official said DNA, blood, and hair samples were collected and sent to Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad for clinical examination.

Neeraj also said permissions were obtained from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for transporting the animal to Mysore Zoo.  

However, Sangeeta Dogra, director of Delhi-based NGO Red Lynx Confederation, alleged the entire operation was illegal. "Until October 14, they did not have permissions. I have RTIs to prove. I will be moving the court challenging the hunt order and fight for freeing MDT-23. The tiger was captured due to human deaths, but as per law it is an accidental death and required to be investigated u/s 174 of CrPC. Unless the investigation is complete, no conclusions can be drawn."



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