Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Wednesday said there are preliminary reports suggesting Jai, the biggest tiger in the state, has wandered in the neighbourhood corridor of Pauni (Bhandara district) in Vidarbha region.
Jai, who is tagged as a head turner, went missing from his home location Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary for the last few months, causing panic amongst the forest department. The forest ministry has deployed five teams to search the forest corridors to locate missing Jai.
The government has scaled up search operations ahead of the World Tiger Day, July 29. To promote tiger tourism, the state government has launched project selfie with tiger. Maharashtra which has one of the finest tiger corridors is planning to bring its tourism on the global map. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Mungantiwar have also rolled out an elaborate plan for tiger tourism. However, disappearance of state’s biggest tiger has gave some anxious moments to the forest department.
According to Mungantiwar, “We are completely ruling out possibility of poaching. Maharashtra has ensured adequate measures to totally eliminate poaching through strict monitoring and punishment.” He said, “The reports from the field suggest that Jai has again embarked on an adventure straying from his present location to wander into deeper jungle corridor.” Based on the forest officials input, he said, “There are reports that village sarpanchs have spotted Jai near Pauni (bhandara).”
The forest minister revealed that Jai is known for springing surprises through his wandering habits. He even described Jai as “happy-go-lucky”.
Tracing his past, Mungantiwar said, “As a three year old, Jai walked all the way from Nagzira covering almost 100 kms in search of a female tiger. Well, he did succeed.” What has appalled officials was his ability to confront human sites and navigate the corridors which had human habitations.
The forest minister believes, “The survival of Jai is not a question as he can feed on cattle. There are evidences suggesting his food habits which makes him a good wanderer.” The ministry believes there are several theories for his disappearance. The foremost could be he was looking for a mate that led him in new corridors. Secondly, he may have strayed in search of new corridors being nudged by his own cubs and other family members.
However, the big question that has officials worried is the mysterious disappearance. The tiger was radio collared at Amred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary by experts team from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Pench forest officials. It was to facilitate monitoring his movements. Umred-Karhandla is about 60 kms from Pauni tehsil in district Bhandara. The forest ministry officials said, “ It is a long forest corridor which connects key tiger reserves Tadoba Andhari, Bor, Nagzira and Pench.” Despite massive search operations the heavy monsoons is proving hurdle in locating Jai.