The Rajaji Tiger Reserve is set to welcome the first big cat from Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve on Thursday, in the first such relocation in Uttarakhand aimed at tiger population management. A total of five big cats from the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve — nearly eight years since conceptualisation of the project and four years after clearance from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) — are scheduled to be translocated from Jim Corbett to Rajaji.
“All preparations have been done for the translocation process in Corbett and Rajaji,” said J S Suhag, chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand forest department. The tigress which will be translocated on Thursday was rescued, tranquilised and radio-collared on Wednesday.
Around 100 people, including IFS officers, forest personnel, veterinary doctors and wildlife scientists, will execute the entire exercise.
Spread over 557 sq km, Rajaji reserve has 37 tigers against a capacity of 83, and its western part spread over 380 sq km has only two tigresses —codenamed T1 and T2. Forest authorities do not expect any reproduction as they are aged above 18 years.
Why translocation is needed
The western portion of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, which occupies more than 60 per cent of the total reserve area, has only two tigresses, presumed to be unfit for reproduction as they above 18 years. Despite Rajaji having 37 tigers, the eastern part cannot boost numbers in the western portion as the two are divided by a traffic corridor which makes it difficult for the big cats to migrate. With this relocation, a rise in tiger numbers can be expected in the western part next year.
An expert committee comprising forest department officials and scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have identified two males and three females in Corbett, which has 252 tigers, for translocation.
The five tigers are aged between 4 to 6 years and physically fit for reproduction, said Rahul, Director of Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve.
They will be tranquilised and radio-collared after a check-up before beginning the five-hour journey — in a modified cage with plywood on all sides to prevent injury — from Jim Corbett to Rajaji reserve.
Sheds are being built for six elephants in the Motichur range of Rajaji. These pachyderms will be used to help monitor the big cats post translocation and to prevent them from entering any areas with human population. The forest staff in Motichur range was put on alert Wednesday night and safaris in the area have also been cancelled for a day.
“One tiger will be translocated at a time. At Rajaji, it will be kept first in an enclosure of one hectare area. Its movement will be constantly observed for the next few days. When we are sure that the tiger is comfortable at the new location and is behaving normally, it will be released in the forest,” said DK Singh, Director of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, and member of the expert committee for source identification.
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