Updated: March 20, 2021 1:50:51 am
ONE OF the reasons cited by wildlife managers for not releasing PTRF_84, better known as Avni’s cub, in Dnyanganga Wildlife Sanctuary in Buldhana district was that she was from the same gene pool to which Walker, the Pandharkawda tiger that came to the sanctuary after a 3,000-km walk, belonged.
The cub, which was picked up from Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district in December 2018, died on March 13 after a territorial clash with another tigress, following her release in Pench Tiger Reserve, where she underwent “re-wilding” for two years in an enclosure.
But earlier this week, a tiger from Pandharkawda was found in Gavtala area of Aurangabad division. This took officials by surprise since this tiger too had walked the same route taken by Walker to reach Dnyanganga. While Walker has not been spotted over the past 50 days after becoming stable in Dnyanganga for over a year, the discovery of the new Pandharkawda tiger has underscored wildlife managers’ point that there would be several other tigers that may have roamed like Walker without being noticed. Walker’s movement could be traced because of a radio collar fitted at Pandharkawda.
Now called Walker 2, the Gavtala tiger does not have a radio collar but was identified from its stripe pattern that matched trap camera photos captured in Pandharkawda.
As wildlife managers have found out, Walker 1 and Walker 2 are siblings of the same tiger T5, but born to different mothers, T1 and T3, who are siblings. Thus, Walker 1 and Walker 2 are also distant cousins.
Pandharkawda Divisional Forest Officer Subhash Puranik said, “T1 had three cubs (C1, C2, C3), of which C1 and C3 were found entangled in a trap in 2019. They were rescued and fitted with collar so we could track their movement. While C2 headed for Penganga (also in Yavatmal) and stabilised there, C1 walked all the way to Dnyanganga and became famous as Walker.”
Puranik added, “There is another tigress called T3 that had one male and two female cubs fathered by T5. Of them, one of the females has now gone to Penganga where it was found to be mating with C2, who is her step brother. While Penganga, in a sense, is excited about the prospect of having its first tiger family after several decades, the flipside is that it is inbreeding in progress, which is not desirable. If this continues, we will have weaker tiger population in future.”
The original Walker’s long journey could also be seen as the tiger’s natural response to avoid its own gene pool just like its search for a safe territory. Pandharkawda tehsil has Pandharkawda divisional forest and Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, about 700 sq km and 150 sq km, respectively. Together, they account for over 40 tigers, 10 of which are residents of Tipeshwar, and 30 of the divisional forest. While the genetic stagnation is a matter of concern, the two tigers that have migrated to Buldhana and Aurangabad have underscored the importance of developing wildlife corridors to tackle genetic stagnation.
“Now that we know how these two tigers have walked all the way up to faraway places, the takeaway is that these corridors have to be strengthened for more such tigers to relocate themselves to areas of different genetic varieties,” Puranik said.
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