TN to soon decide when to release ‘rewilding’ tiger, new panel formed

Chief Wildlife Warden Srinivas R Reddy has constituted a new committee to inspect and report the possibility of tiger cubs being released in the wild.
The male tiger that was rescued from a tea estate in Valparai
The male tiger that was rescued from a tea estate in Valparai (File picture)

CHENNAI: The first-ever tiger rewilding attempt in Tamil Nadu has entered its final phase. For three years, the state forest department has taken special care of a male tiger cub that was rescued from a tea estate in Valparai and now he has grown into a 150-kg sub-adult fully ready to prowl in the Anamalai tiger reserve (ATR).

Chief Wildlife Warden Srinivas R Reddy has constituted a new committee headed by Rakesh Kumar Dogra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Project Tiger) to inspect and report the possibility of tiger cubs being released in the wild.

Other members of the committee include K Ramesh, a scientist from the Wildlife Institute of India, V Harini, Assistant Inspector General of Forests, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) along a veterinarian. ATR Field Director S Ramasubramanian is the member secretary of the committee.

The committee has already visited the 10,000 sq ft enclosure in the Mandthirimattam area of the Manambolly forest range, where the tiger is kept near the wild environment, ensuring its natural instincts are kept intact with no human imprint.

Srinivas Reddy told TNIE, “Now, the committee will do a holistic assessment of the tiger’s health and its hunting skills and submit a report based on which I will issue necessary orders. As per the SoP issued by the NTCA, abandoned tiger cubs must be kept in a large enclosure till they attain two years of age and are able to hunt the prey on their own. We met all the requirements.”

Earlier, there was a proposal to move the tiger into a much bigger four-acre enclosure and ATR officials even sent a formal proposal, but it was learnt the government was not too keen on it and a final decision on the tiger’s release will be taken shortly.

An ATR field staff also told TNIE that the animal was in perfectly good health condition with proper food intake and displaying correct age-related attributes of a wild tiger like crouching, claw scratching, urine territory marking etc.

To avoid human imprint, the enclosure is surrounded on three sides with green camouflage and open on the forest side so that it can interact with other wild animals. “Only two caretakers with camouflaged masks take care of the tiger. All the activities of the tiger are observed and recorded from the control room by through motion sensor CCTV cameras.

“So far, the tiger has made 22 kills including sambar deer. It was also regularly provided with disease-free wild meat of animals that die due to infightings and road kills,” an official said.

Officials said the tiger was completely recovered from the upper right canine dental surgery. “The surgery has not affected the tiger’s ability to hunt, tear or chew the meat.”

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