Long captivity makes wild ‘Sundari’ develop stress syndrome

Cattle or human hunting by tiger is rare, and when such scenario is observed then the reason will be inadequate prey density (available quantity of prey given in the area). This has happened with the relocated tigress in Satkosia

Bhubaneswar: With the relocated tigress (nicknamed Sundari) having lost the wild hunting skills post being kept captive in Satkosia Sanctuary for months, the chances of the tigress going back to the wild looks dim. And this development has put the life of the tigress in jeopardy.

As per sources, during a joint assessment by State Forest Department and NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority), some abnormal behaviours of the captive tigress like the nimbleness in running, climbing and hunting were noticed. The tigress’ behaviour revealss as if she is under stress.

It is these behavioural blips that led to the decision of moving the relocated tigress to a 25 hectare enclosure in Satkosia Tiger Reserve. According to experts, ‘Sundari’ should have been kept so from the day 1 post the capture via tranquilisation.

It is this lack of proper insight and foresight that have put the first such inter-State tiger relocation in Odisha into a roaring mess, though the country had witnessed successful intra-state relocation of tigers in Sariska tiger reserve from Ranthambore and Keoladeo National Parks during 2008-2013.

Now the moot point here is why the Odisha translocation proved a roaring failure?

Since male tigers are territorial fundamentalists, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has relocated only one male in Satkosia keeping in mind the behaviour of the large carnivores. Because, any social pressure means competition with other male tiger for resources like food or mating, and this could have led to the survival of fittest.

And the decision to introduce a female tiger in Satkosia hinged on the behavioural attitudes of females as they are lesser fundamentalists territorially.

However, WII’s nuanced relocation strategy worked well for the male tiger but failed for the female tiger.

According to wildlife watchers, hunting of cattle or humans by tiger is rare, and when such scenario is observed then the reason will be inadequate prey density (available quantity of prey given in the area). This has happened with the relocated tigress in Satkosia.

What has surprised wildlife experts is when it has established through various studies that the density of ungulate species (animals having hooves like deer, water buffalo, wild boars etc) is very low in Satkosia, how the NTCA gave a nod to tiger translocation.

“The density of ungulates play a major role in maintaining the predator species,” observed WSO, chief Biswajit Mohanty.

Independent studies have shown that human habitations in core area will prove a big hurdle in any tiger relocation. It is thus surprising as to  how the State Forest department and NTCA decided to relocate Sundari when a total of  157 families in Satkosia have not been relocated so far.

However, the State Forest Department has to apportion the blame of mismanagement post introduction of the big cat in Satkosia. They failed to put in the rearguard measures taken by Sariska Tiger Reserve.

In order to prevent tiger-human interface, Sariska authorities have erected masonry walls at strategic places to prevent livestock grazing, collection of forest produces/wood. Such preventive actions are completely missing in Satkosia.

Also, the State Forest Department failed to deploy tiger guards at vintage points to prevent any human-tiger conflict. It is this flippant attitude of State Forest department that stamped the tag of ‘man-eater’ on the translocated female tiger.

“Tiger translocation is expensive, exhaustive and time consuming. Tigers first explore areas to mark their territory, they take time to identify and settle in core areas. Meanwhile, such stray-outs are expected initially, a little alert by the Forest Department could have averted  this caging and jeopardising the life of the relocated tigress,” observed a former PCCF, Odisha.