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21 days into search operation, Tamil Nadu forest officials capture elusive tiger T-23 alive

Forest Minister K Ramachandran said steps would be taken to transport the big cat to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: October 16, 2021 9:49:57 am
T-23 tiger captured alive in Tamil NaduTamil Nadu Forest Department tranquilized and captured the elusive tiger, identified as T-23, near Masinagudi forest area

Twenty-one days into its intensive search operation, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department tranquilized and captured the elusive tiger, identified as T-23, near Masinagudi forest area on Friday. Speaking to indianexpress.com, state Forest Minister K Ramachandran lauded the tireless efforts of the officials and said steps would be taken to transport the big cat to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

“It’s the first time that we have captured a killer tiger alive. Based on the requests of the animal activists and other public, Chief Minister MK Stalin instructed us to make sure that the tiger is tranquilized and captured alive,” the minister said.

“The captured animal is old and it has sustained injuries possibly after fighting with other young tigers. So doctors would examine it immediately. We would be consulting experts, and officers from neighbouring districts like Karnataka, Kerala have also been involved in this operation. So based on their suggestion, we would take further steps like whether to take it to the Vandalur zoo or make some other arrangements,” he added.

About 150 officers, including forest range officials and veterinarians, had been involved in the attempt to capture the elusive big cat which is believed to have killed at least four people and several heads of cattle.

Hundreds of cameras and traps had been set up for the same, besides deploying sniffer dogs and tamed elephants.

Officials with the forest department said the animal was spotted Friday morning a couple of metres from the Masinagudi check post. As a result, traffic was temporarily suspended around the Gudalur-Masinagudi area. It was also seen on Thursday evening near the Masinagudi-Theppakadu road when officials tried to tranquilize the animal, but it managed to escape into the forest.

Animal rights activists had recently moved the Madras High Court after Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj issued orders to “hunt down” the animal. Forest officials later clarified that they did not intend to kill the animal and were only trying to trap it. The high court too issued directions to capture the tiger alive.

On October 12, the tiger was spotted at Ombetta area in Mudumalai Reserve. Following this, the forest department personnel and a medical team rushed to the spot. The tribals in surrounding areas were advised to stay indoors. The forest department sources said camera footage showed the feline moving towards the area around Mayar, Theppakkadu and Mudumalai.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Veterinarian Balaji Murugesan, who worked in the Gudalur forest area for over three years, said the tiger is around 12 years old. “The Gudalur range is a thick cover which delayed the capture. The big cat is very intelligent, it has a deep knowledge of the terrain and used it to evade capture. Due to old age, it was not able to hunt other animals in the wild and hence entered villages bordering the forest to prey on cattle as those are easy targets,” he said.

“It’s not a man-eater as is being claimed by many. It may have been a man-eater if it was a panther, because we have seen instances in the past that if it likes the taste of human flesh, panthers will continue to hunt them. But a tiger is generally not a man-eater,” he explained.

(With PTI Inputs)

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