BENGALURU: The two tigresses captured in Bandipur and Nagarhole last week were old, weak and thrown out of their home ranges, say experts. With high population densities of tigers, these two protected areas see high mortalities and dispersal-related losses of nearly 20 per cent per year. The forest department says National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has to take a call on the rising tiger population and the resulting conflict due to lack of space in these two habitats.
Dr Ullas Karanth, Director of Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said: “Research shows that Bandipur-Nagarhole tiger population is at high densities of 10-15 per 100 square kilometres. Due to high reproduction rate and abundant prey, this population has naturally high mortality and dispersal related losses. Such dispersals and mortalities are more likely among sub-adults trying to find new territories and old and weak cats that are evicted from their home ranges.”
The biologist added the tigers were identified using the ‘camera trap data’ collected using rigorous scientific protocols. “We have photographs of 900 identified tigers from this landscape. The images of captured tigresses at Hediyala range, Bandipur and Antarsanthe range, Nagarhole were compared with tiger images in our WCS database. While the Hediyala tigress matched with the individual BPT-168, the Antarsanthe tigress matched with the individual NHT-240.”
Analysis revealed that the Hediyala tigress was first photo captured in 2005 in Maddur Range and then camera trapped 17 times from 2006-16. In December 2013, when a man was murdered by a tiger, this tigress was identified as one of the three tigers present in the location. Further, the tigress age was estimated as at least 14 years old and reportedly injured at the time of capture. The Antarsanthe tigress was photo captured for the first time in January 2007 and subsequently camera trapped four times between 2008 and 2010. The age of the tiger is estimated at 12-13 years.
Karnataka Chief Wildlife Warden C Jayaram said: “With rigid protection measures, both these areas have tiger population beyond their carrying capacities.”“At the national level, a decision has to be taken soon as we had been anticipating such a situation where we will have to capture and relocate animals. In the last six months, we’ve discussed rehabilitation of tigers with NTCA. With the habitat being close to human settlements, we need to identify tigers that are thrown out of their home ranges. We need a rehabilitation centre closeby,” he added.