BHUBANESWAR: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) appears to have developed cold feet over releasing the wild tiger in Similipal Tiger Reserve. For, it continues to delay the process by generating views from various expert teams.
The latest was a two-member team from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) which studied ‘suitability of the tiger to be released in a natural habitat’. Led by PC Tyagi and Dr PK Mallik, the team completed its assessment last week. The team, sources said, studied if the tiger has retained its natural instincts after more than a year in captivity at the Nandankanan Zoo. Part of its mandate was to assess if the tiger can survive in a natural habitat and hunt to live. Besides, its adaptability to conflict situations will also be reflected in the report which will be submitted to NTCA. The team also assessed the large cat’s conditioning in the zoo and how it might affect the release.
Interestingly, the NTCA had agreed to radio collaring of the tiger and entrusted the work to WII. Instead of taking the move forward, the apex body has been seeking opinions by sending expert teams.
“The NTCA is now unsure if the tiger release will be successful after such a delay for which the Wildlife Wing must share blame. Because, it sat on the issue last year and sought opinions from various bodies instead of taking a firm decision,” sources said.
The tiger had entered the Zoo on its own last year in April. It escaped later but returned in the third week of June and has been lodged in an off-exhibit enclosure ever since. Initially, the NTCA had proposed its relocation to Satkosia but had a change of mind following reservations from the tiger reserve authorities. Later, Similipal was chosen as the site but the release process has been trapped in bureaucratic tangles.