BHUBANESWAR: In a major jolt to the Odisha Government, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has put on hold the ambitious tiger relocation project between Odisha and Madhya Pradesh, India’s first inter-state big cat relocation programme, after Mahavir, the male tiger shifted to Satkosia Tiger Reserve from Kanha Tiger Reserve, was found dead on Wednesday.
The relocation programme was under cloud from the beginning of November after tigress Sundari was tranquilised and brought back to Raigoda enclosure following protest from the locals who opposed her relocation after she killed two villagers who had ventured int the forest.
Member Secretary of NTCA Dr Anup Kumar Nayak told this paper that a two-member team including IG Amit Malik and Ramesh will head for Satkosia on Friday to take stock of the circumstances under which Mahavir - or MB2 - died. It will also review the condition of Sundari, the tigress which was tranquilised and recaptured earlier this month.
The team will review the community engagement, protection mechanism and monitoring capacity of the existing staff at Satkosia. “Only after they review and complete the investigation a final call on the relocation project will be taken” the NTCA chief said.
The apex tiger conservation body has asked the Forest Department to conduct the post-mortem of Mahavir as per NTCA protocol. An NTCA nominee and an NGO worker would remain present during the procedure for transparency.
PCCF (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Sandeep Tripathi said since allegations of poaching are being leveled, DFO Satkosia has been asked to probe the death of the tiger and submit a report to the government at the earliest.
“The tiger relocation programme, which was being done under the supervision of NTCA has been put on hold because of these incidents. We will chalk out further course of action after holding talks with authorities of NTCA and other officials concerned,” he told mediapersons.
Tripathy had rushed to the spot on Wednesday after death of the tiger was reported from a spot around 300 metre away from Nuagaon road located at a distance of 5 km from Raigoda in Satkosia. A deep laceration and a five-day old magot-infected wound was found in the dorsal neck of the young tiger which was brought from Kanha Tiger Reserve on June 21 and released into the wild on July 7.
A radio collar was fitted on its neck, with two tracking devices, to monitor its movement.
The last movement of the tiger recorded was at around 10 am on November 14. “We have found wound on the tiger’s neck which appears to be five-day old. However, the exact reason of tiger's death is yet to be ascertained, “Tripathy said, adding, it will be known after the postmortem is complete.
The spate of incidents involving the tiger supplementation has raised serious question marks on of the Forest Department’s protection and monitoring mechanism.
Conservationist Aditya Chandra Panda took to Twitter raising posers about the failure of the protection area management in the State. “@odishawildlife has lied to itself and state for decades. Results showing now,” his tweet read.