At the onset, I must apologize for my emotional outburst in this note. No one is to blame here. The forest department are doing their best in the given limited circumstances to ensure that wildlife lives longer. Having said that, why do we need to trans-locate Tigers or any other wildlife for that matter? Why can’t humans be trans-located instead, and asked to vacate corridors they have conveniently occupied, and gradually inching their presence into the animal world? On June 20th 2018, a Tiger ( MV 2) from Kanha National Park became a part of a conservation procedure, “Trans-locating Tigers to Satkosia”.
The first Tiger in the below video is MV2, I hope he walks in Satkosia with similar confidence.
MV2 walking with his brother MV 1
Does someone really care what the Tigers go through during trans-location? Just because they cannot express themselves we have the right to tranquilize them, and throw them out of their homes? Since yesterday I have been trying to think if someone tranquilized me and threw me into an alien environment what would go through my mind and heart. Where is my home, my family, the roads on which I traveled, my neighbors, the strays in my lane, what happened to them, or me? Is this a dream? Or was that a dream, which I left behind? Wouldn’t you feel and think the same?
Wouldn’t MV 2 be feeling similar, maybe worse? Where has his home suddenly disappeared? Worst is he cannot even share his heart with anyone. Where are those trees where he marked his presence? Those tracks where he walked? Where is Choti Mada whom he liked to spend his time with? Is there anyone who is there to answer his questions? And who are these new animals in this park, I have never seen Gharials, Crocodiles and wild Elephants? I only saw well behaved domesticated Elephants. Why are they here?
Trans-locating Tigers to Satkosia
The decision to trans-locate the Tigers to Satkosia was taken a few months back when there was a demand from Orissa asking for Tigers, as the only a couple of overage Tigers were left in Satkosia. So a decision was taken to send 6 Tigers from Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench, a pair each to Satkosia. As a forest Satkosia has it all that makes a good Tiger habitat. Prey density, water, ambush etc. Also, it is said that the Tigers of Satkosia were genetically similar to Tigers from Madhya Pradesh.
This exercise is good in more than a couple of ways:
- It gives more area for Tigers to breed.
- Some parks which are almost barren of Tigers get a new leash of life. Tiger is the saviour of forests in India. And if he gets displaced from the apex of the food chain it becomes easy for the eco-system to fall apart.
- There are some ranges where the Tiger population is bursting at the seams. Death due to territorial face-offs is one way ahead. And the second is Tigers moving towards the fringes of the forest with increased chances of man-animal conflict. This is also bad for the Tigers. For yet again Tigers are a scapegoat, tranquilised, and shifted to zoos. They lose out always to humans.
Hence it makes sense to move Tigers to new areas which are bereft of them or the population is not sustainable any longer. Satkosia, Motichur range in Rajaji, Phen, and many such areas are available where the Tigers can establish their territory.
The tough test begins now
Identifying Tigers to shift, tranquilizing them and shifting is the easy part. The tough part of the Orissa forest department begins now. Their cause will be put to test. First, a soft release into an enclosure, followed by a full release into the forest. What is now required is iron-willed officers like Mr Murthy who ensured Tigers in Panna adapted well.
Do the officers of Orissa have a similar will? What I recall of Mr Murthy in Panna was that he was in the field daily for over 12-15 hours. Sleeping in the vehicle while patrolling, and keeping a track of every Tiger like his own child. It took him 4 years to provide a sustainable Tiger population in Panna. Today the Tigers are roaring in Panna, over 34 Tigers. No mean achievement by any standards. Will Orissa officers be able to do that?
What the Mp officers have achieved over the years is commendable. Be it the Tiger relocation in Panna, the Indian Gaur relocation from Kanha to Bandhavgarh, Barasingha from Kanha to Satpura, Black Buck to Kanha, Spotted Deers to Phen and much more.
My worries on Trans-locating Tigers to Satkosia
Apart from the adept Forest officers, a good habitat, good density of prey and water availability, the biggest challenge is acceptance of all this by the Tigers themselves. It is surely a distressing event in their lives. How they react to this remains to be seen. A soft opening into an enlarged enclosure is a good idea. Importantly the Tigers being picked up are sub adults, they are looking for their own territories, so this is a blessing in disguise for them only if they accept it.
Let us be clear that Tiger is a dominating cat and they have a strong homing instinct. Tigers have demonstrated this several times in the past. The male who was translocated from Pench to Panna had left Panna and started to move back towards Pench. He was again put back in Panna after covering half the distance (close to 200kms). So if they leave the forest and begin to wander around, there could be conflicts. What worked in Panna, might not work here? But one cannot stop research and efforts to relocate. I also believe that the more we fail the more we improve.
Every Tiger is unique
Every Tiger behaviour is unique and he has his own mind. He might, or might not accept the new surroundings. Just a couple of months back the Tiger trans-located to Noradehi broke the enclosure and ran away. What will stop MV 2 from doing the same? He is a robust Tiger by all standards. After his brief skirmishes with Umarpani male, he has only gained in confidence and stature. They say that to improve oneself one must compete with one’s superior. MV2 has done exactly that. He is not a mean Tiger by any standard. And by the looks of it, he is not going to be an easy customer for Orissa. There will be war and vengeance in his mind, and if he translates that physically it can be a disaster. The forest department has to be prepared for this.
I would not like to be speculative and overthink at this stage. But I hope the forest department does overthink the Tigers. After all, they are Tigers and any shift in their function and their killing behaviour will not be acceptable to mankind. I would hate to see any of these trans-located Tigers being poisoned by locals or being sent to the zoo if they end up killing some humans for no fault of theirs. The intention is good, and the efforts are laborious, so I wish success to all involved here.
Lastly, all the best to all our Tigers who will get a new place to live which I pray they make their home.
My best to the translocated Tigers to Satkosia, may they breed successfully and may Satkosia flourish.
– Sharad Vats