New Delhi, Nov 29 There is no evidence that Jai, dubbed as Maharashtra's biggest and most-famous tiger who has been missing since April from a wildlife sanctuary near Nagpur, is dead and search is on to trace him, government said today.
"Till now, there is no evidence that the tiger is dead... The tiger could be alive, we have not declared it dead," Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave said in Lok Sabha in reply to questions, adding that all efforts are being made to find him.
Seven-year old Jai had gone missing from Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary in Gondia-Bhandara district and apprehensions have been expressed by several quarters including the local MP that he could have fallen to poachers.
Named after Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's character in the hit 1975 film 'Sholay', Jai came into limelight after embarking on an epic hike of nearly 150 kms from Nagzira-Navegaon tiger reserve and entering Umred forest in September 2013, crossing several villages, rivers and even the Mumbai-Kolkata national highway in pursuit of a mate.
The tiger's electronic collar stopped transmitting his location in April. Noting that there is a lot of demand for tiger parts in South East Asia and China, Dave said a close watch is kept to ensure that no trade in tiger parts takes place and at times the help of Interpol is also sought, the Minister added.
Efforts are being made to minimise man-animal conflicts as well as those between animals and also to sensitise people about it, Dave said against the backdrop of rise in such incidents, adding that efforts are being made to ensure that the animals remain within their habitat in the forests.
"Efforts are being made to minimise man-animal and animal-animal conflicts," he said during Question Hour, adding people should also be sensitised so that the factors that result in such conflicts are taken care of. However, Dave also said there are limitations and Interpol is roped in to plug the loopholes.
In a written reply, the Minister said Rs 233.57 crore have been released under Project Tiger to the tiger range states till November 23 of this fiscal.
Project Tiger, which is implemented in 50 tiger reserves spread across 18 tiger range states, is one of the most successful conservation programme in the world that has brought the "endangered tiger on assured path of recovery", he said.
"Adequate funds have been provided to the tiger range states for various activities prescribed under the Tiger Conservation Plan of respective tiger reserves. "Funding assistance is provided to the tiger range states/tiger reserves under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger and is based on Annual Plan of Operations received from the concerned states," he said.