A search for a tiger is underway in Mahisagar forest range after a school teacher told forest officials of spotting a tiger near Boriya village in Lunawada taluka and showed them a photograph of a tiger crossing a road which he had reportedly taken from his cellphone, four days ago.
Tigers have not been spotted in Gujarat since 1985. As per the National Tiger Conservation Authority, tigers are found in the wild in 18 states, Gujarat not being among them.
Forest officials have installed three camera traps and around twenty foresters are patrolling the area to find evidence of the big cat’s presence. However, in the last four days, forest officials have not found any pug marks or any physical evidence to confirm the sighting. Officials are yet to analyse some scat in the area to confirm whether it is a tiger’s scat.
“We have visited the spot where the photograph was taken and cross-checked the place with the location in the image, and it matched. But there were no pug marks in the area. Our teams are looking for pug marks, scat or even marks on tree trunks to ascertain if there is a tiger in the jurisdiction. But we have found no evidence, so far. However, we are not aborting the operation until we confirm that whether or not there is a tiger. We will also increase the number of foresters on patrol, especially in border areas close to Rajasthan,” said Divisional Conservator of Forest (Mahisagar) R M Parmar.
According to Chief Conservator of Forests, Vadodara Circle, S K Srivastava since the photograph matched the location, therefore they were not ruling out completely the possibility of a tiger in the forest range. “One interesting catch is that our wildlife experts have spotted that the pattern of stripes on this tiger is exactly similar to a tiger that had gone missing from Ujjain the previous year. We have analysed the images too and we too feel it could be the same tiger. Speculation are that the tiger had moved into another territory towards the forest ranges of Rajasthan. So, it is likely that the tiger is on a return journey from Rajasthan to MP via Gujarat,” Srivastava said.
However, Parmar ruled the possibility of tigers walking from the nearby border states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. “There is no such corridor for tiger to reach Mahisagar from nearby states. There are tigers in Madhya Pradesh but the state does not share a border with Mahisagar and areas in Rajasthan with tiger population is more than 200 km away from where the tiger was spotted. The possibility of it is nil, so far,” Parmar said.
Mahesh Mahera, the school teacher, claimed of spotting the tiger when he was returning from school on February 6 evening. “Around 5:15 pm on February 6, I was passing through the area in a four-wheeler when I spotted a tiger emerging from one side of the road and crossing over to the other side. I stopped the car and I clicked its picture. It clearly shows it is a tiger,” PTI quoted him as saying.
Last week, images and videos of a tiger being spotted in Waghodia taluka of Vadodara had gone viral on social media. However, forest officials denied any such sighting and discarded the claims as rumours.
Last July, pug marks of a tiger were spotted in Koknipada village, some 30 km from Tapi district, in neighbouring Maharashtra. Two residents had also claimed of spotting the tiger.