The Rajasthan forest department has made it clear that it has no plans to relocate tiger T-24, aka Ustad, back to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, even as the big cat underwent an operation on Friday and is being kept under constant medical supervision.
Ustad had not been keeping well for the last 10 days. He was suffering from an intestinal block and had not been eating much. In fact, Rajasthan Chief Wildlife Warden R K Tyagi confirmed that the tiger has been struggling with health issues since being brought to the Sajjangarh park in May.
The tiger was brought to the park in Udaipur after he mauled a forest guard to death at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in May. His translocation from the wild to captivity had evoked national outrage.
Though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has repeatedly written to the state forest department, urging them to shift Ustad back to the wild, the latter has not budged from its position.
“There is a team of veterinarians looking after him, treating him. There is no plan to shift him back to Ranthambore,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
The tiger is being treated by veterinarians from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute and the Wildlife Institute of India. The report on Ustad’s recovery by Udaipur’s Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Rahul Bhatnagar, on Saturday read, “The animal has been resting for the day. Passed small quantity of scat on its own… He showed slight improvement and responded to treatment. However, (the tiger) is still under critical monitoring and care. The experts plan to closely monitor T-24 for another 48 hours. It is heartening to know that the animal consumed small quantity of food on its own in the evening.”
The NTCA had raised questions over Ustad being branded a man-eater and his translocation, in a detailed report in July.
“The only update we have received is that there is a committee formed to look into T-24’s rehabilitation. But no plan or strategy or tentative date has been communicated to us,” an NTCA official told The Indian Express.
Wildlife experts say Ustad’s health will continue to be a cause for concern as long as it is kept in confinement. “Of course the deterioration in his health has come about because of confinement. What will happen to a tiger who has spent its life in the wild and suddenly finds himself in an enclosure?” asked Sunayan Sharma, a former Indian Forest Services officer, and president, Sariska Tiger Foundation.
“We have to think what direction our tiger management is headed in. Is the reserve for tigers or for tourists? Tiger management has become tourism centric, non-scientific and is actually going against tiger conservation,” he said.