On Saturday, forest officials had a rare sighting of four tigers together at Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, near the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. A team of officials under deputy director of the Periyar Tiger Reserve Sanjayan Kumar observed the group and photographed them.
Tigers, like most felines, are solitary creatures and prefer to live alone, except when mating. The Central government declared 777 sqkm of forest area in Thekkady as a wildlife sanctuary in 1950 and it was named Periyar Tiger Reserve in 1978. The area was later extended to 925 sqkm. The reserve forest covers two districts in Kerala, including Patthanamthitta and Idukki, as well as areas of Kannagi Koil, Suruli and Megamalai of Theni district in Tamil Nadu. The tiger reserve gets approximately `300 crore from the World Bank and Japan governments with aim of saving wild animals, especially tigers.
In the last 10 years, many census processes were conducted and motion-detection cameras were installed in at least 20 spots to record the moments of animals. Photographs showed 350 elephants, 25,000 bison and lakhs of deer. However, the big cats were never photographed.
Many environmentalists criticised the government for spending money on the tiger reserve, which had no tigers. But the National Tiger Conservation Authority announced in 2011 that the reserve had six males and 12 females, creating a controversy among nature enthusiasts.
Later, officials said the reserve had about 36 tigers, although none were photographed. The sighting of the four tigers on Saturday has raised hopes that the tiger population in the reserve forest could have increased.