Updated: March 6, 2021 9:28:37 am
At 6.45 pm Friday, she finally walked through the gates of the giant enclosure into the jungle — her first time in the wild without her mother. Behind her, the forest officials shut the gates of the enclosure. The jungles of Pench Tiger Reserve, would now be her home. But this time, she would have to fend for herself, fight the big battles.
Now a three-year-old adult tigress, T1C2 was about a year old when her maneater mother T1, nicknamed Avni, had given the entire forest machinery the slip. When Avni was finally shot dead in November 2018 by a sharpshooter in Pandharkawada forest in Yavatmal district, her cubs were not found. While T1C2 was captured 50 days after the death of their mother and sent to a 5.11-hectare enclosure in the Pench reserve, T1C1 remained elusive. Officials now believe that he may have probably carved out a territory for himself.
Over the last two years, as part of her “re-wilding” lessons, TIC2 has spent most of her time in the enclosure, learning to hunt and “with no human imprint”.
On November 27 last year, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) cleared TIC2’s release into the wild. But even as authorities were gearing up to release her after radio-collaring, she injured a paw in a skirmish with another tiger that charged at her from across the fence of the enclosure. The authorities had to then wait for her injury to heal. Finally, about a week ago, the authorities decided it was time for her to go home to the wild.
“We first opened the gates of the enclosure about a week ago, and had been waiting since then for the tigress to come out. But she didn’t leave the enclosure. So, we would close the gates at night and try again next morning. But today, at 6.45 pm, she finally chose to walk out,” PTR Field Director Ravikiran Govekar told The Indian Express.
“Further monitoring of the tigress will be carried out with the help of field formation and satellite tracking. Though we cannot predict how this tigress will behave in the wild, the Forest Department has taken the best of efforts to re-wild the animal using systematic re-wilding techniques. Lots of information about tiger behaviour was also collected during the experiment, and the learnings from this experiment will be useful in active tiger management in the future,” Govekar added.
Asked if there was a possibility of her returning to the enclosure, Govekar said, “This is an experiment. We can’t predict anything. She might have to fight for space with other tigers.”
Will the enclosure be kept open for her in case she chooses to return? No, Govekar said, “We have closed it.”
He hopes she stays safe, though. “There is a resident tigress in the area. She might encounter that tigress but tigers usually avoid each other. Only in rare cases do they fight violently. We hope TIC2 manages to lead a normal life like any other tigress.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Nitin Kakodkar said, “In about a week’s time, we should be able to know how she has adjusted to her life in the open forest.”
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