A tiger reserve in Odisha, on the brink of becoming tiger-less, has managed to convince Madhya Pradesh to help “re-stock” by relocating a pair of tigers from Bandhavgarh National Park. The 963 sq-km Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha presently has only two old tigers — a male and a female, both over the age of 13. “They may die anytime because they are beyond productive age,” Director General of Forests Siddhanta Das said. “Hopefully, by this year, two pairs (of tigers) will be introduced there.” For now, only a pair is to be relocated.
Earlier, the Odisha government had written to other states with overpopulated tiger reserves, asking if they could spare a few of the big cats.
Apart from Satkosia, the western part of Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand and West Bengal’s Buxa National Park, “need restocking”, Vaibhav C Mathur, National Tiger Conservation Authority Assistant Inspector General of Forests, said.
“The Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh has agreed to relocate a pair from Bandhavgarh to Satkosia,” Wildlife Institute of India scientist Y V Jhala told The Indian Express. “There were plans to relocate tigers from Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra earlier, but the tigers in Bandhavgarh were closest in terms of genetic type,” he said.
Mathur said the NTCA had a standard operating procedure to guide the process of relocation. “Basically, it tells us from which landscape you can pick up tigers. In Satkosia, the habitat is there, the prey is there but there are insufficient tigers. This SOP tells us that we can pick up tigers from Kanha National Park, for instance, which have a similar genetic type,” he said.
The ongoing fourth All India Tiger Estimation, 2018 will also provide more information to scientists on four “genetically unique” tiger populations that were spotted during the last estimation in 2014. “They were genetically very different and this estimation, which is done on a larger scale, will give us more information,” Jhala said.
These tiger “genetically unique” are in the North East (less than 50 tigers), in southern India in the Palakkad tip (around 200), in Simlipal National Park in Odisha (less than 20) and Valmiki National Park in Bihar (around 100), he said.
NTCA officials also said that this round of estimation will be driven heavily by digital technology with over 15,000 camera trap locations likely to be sampled. The estimation will also be conducted through an Android-based application called M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) for collecting, archiving and analysing data.
WII scientists said camera traps will also be set up in the North East this time. The tiger count in the 2006 census was 1411, 1706 in 2010, and 2226 in 2014, officials said.
The All India estimation is quadrennial. This year, it will survey across 400,000 sq km of tiger-bearing forests in 18 states.