Tigress Sundari kisses Odisha and Satkosia’s hopes goodbye

With elections not very far, the tiger project became a subject of poll issue for the parties in the local areas.
Tigress Sundari being carried to the cage after being tranquillised.
Tigress Sundari being carried to the cage after being tranquillised.

ANGUL: Close to four years after it was planned, country’s first inter-State tiger reintroduction project folded up as tigress Sundari on Tuesday bid goodbye to Satkosia Tiger Reserve and headed back home. 

After spending an agonising 28 months in captivity in Satkosia, where it was to find a new home and help populate the large cats, Sundari went back to Kanha Tiger Reserve tranquillised in a cage.

Condemned to the Raigoda enclosure much part of her stay, she did not seem to lose the wild streak as the Forest staff tried to lure her with a live prey but failed. 

A six-member team headed by an Assistant Conservator of Forest had arrived here from Kanha to take back the tigress to MP. All efforts to cage the animal by giving a live prey did not yield any result.

Other methods were also adopted but the tigress could not be caged in the last three days. Finally, Sundari had to be tranquillised.

Field Director of Satkosia Tiger Reserve Pradeep Raj Karat said, Sundari left Raigoda in a special vehicle. The tigress will reach Kanha on Wednesday. The big cat is in good health and being monitored by doctors and forest staff, he added. 

“Our intention was to catch the tigress by caging her but that was not possible. Necessary permission was obtained from the chief wildlife warden before tranquillising Sundari. The big cat was tranquillised at around 4 pm today and kept under observation in the cage. Then she was shifted to the special van brought from Kanha Tiger Reserve,” Karat said.

With Sundari’s departure, Satkosia’s hopes of rebuilding a tiger population are back to square one. All it is left with is the lone residential old tigress and none to mate with.

Notified in 2007 as a Tiger Reserve, Satkosia with an area of 963.8 sq km boasted of a good tiger count and prey population before poor protection plunged the big cat numbers. In a decade’s time, the tiger head count had dropped to one.

In 2018, Sundari along with Mahavir was brought to Satkosia from Kanha under an inter-State translocation programme following National Tiger Conservation Authority approval. The plan was to get three pairs, if the first such project in the country succeeded.

Things, however, went haywire after local villages were up in protest as Sundari went to the forest fringe habitations and at least two human deaths were recorded in conflict. 

Law and order situations and arson followed as agitation spilled on to the roads in Angul district and Forest department had no clue how to handle the situation.

With elections not very far, the tiger project became a subject of poll issue for the parties in the local areas. 

Soon, Mahavir, the male, was found dead in a snare in the forest despite being tracked 24x7. A hostile Sundari was tranquillised and held captive. Unhappy, the NTCA suspended the much-trumpeted tiger translocation project.

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The New Indian Express