First international tiger translocation could be from India to Cambodia this year

A similar request for three tigers from Odisha is under the Uttarakhand’s consideration.
First international tiger translocation could be from India to Cambodia this year

Tiger translocation from one reserve to another in a state or within the country isn’t a big deal. For example, a few tigers were successfully relocated within Uttarakhand from the Corbett Tiger Reserve to Rajaji Tiger Reserve.

But by this year-end, chances are India would send four tigers to Cambodia to revive its extinct big cat population. Cambodia’s tigers were functionally declared extinct due to extensive poaching in 2016. But now there appears to be political will to reintroduce them into the wild. “If the project is successful, that will be the first translocation project of tigers anywhere in the world,” Indian ambassador Devyani Khobragade said.

India has hands-on knowledge of translocation, as its Cheetah Reintroduction Project was successful. The project was launched in 2022 to revive the population of the world’s fastest land animal almost 75 years after it went extinct in India. The process began with the introduction of eight African cheetahs from Namibia — five females and three males — in the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on September 17, 2022. Subsequently, 12 cheetahs from South Africa were translocated to Kuno in February, 2023. After some teething trouble, their current population stands at 27.

As for inter-state translocation of tigers, the Uttarakhand government has agreed to shift four of them to Rajasthan. In accordance with the norms, the tigers for relocation to Rajasthan will not be captured from the protected forest area but from the buffer zone. A similar request for three tigers from Odisha is under the Uttarakhand’s consideration.

Parameters for conservation of the international translocation of tigers would include adequate safe space, healthy prey base, camera traps for monitoring them and eliminating the menace of poaching.

For example, each wild tiger requires an average of 500 large prey animals to sustain itself, else it would end up attacking livestock and killing people.

Cambodia’s forests were once home to the big cats but intensive poaching of both tigers and their prey snuffed them out. The last sighting of a tiger there was from a camera trap in 2007.

The memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and India for the translocation was signed on November 12, 2022, two months after the first cheetahs arrived at Kuno. Whenever the Indian tigers arrive — one male and three female — they will be sent to a 222-acre forest inside a wildlife sanctuary in the Cardamom rainforest to acclimatise with their new home before being released into the wild.

Before sending the tigers, India wants to ensure there is sufficient prey and no possibility of poaching, said Khobragade. As soon as data on the prey arrives and the monsoon season eases, “we should have these tigers”, she said. “Hopefully it could be even before November or December.”

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