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India’s first tiger translocation hits roadblock; Sundari to be Kept in Zoo

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 1: India's first interstate translocation exercise for tigers has hit a roadblock with Odisha government decided to shift Royal Bengal tigress 'Sundari', who had allegedly killed two persons, from Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary to an enclosure at any place including in Nandankanan Zoological Park.

Representational Image

The step was being taken in view of public resentment over the tigress' presence at the sanctuary in Angul district, state Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray said after reviewing the situation.

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Nandankanan Zoo located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, is likely to be the new abode for the Tigress after it is captured by forest officials.

The big cat had allegedly killed two persons within a span of 45 days.

"The tigress will be kept inside a special enclosure or in the tiger safari after it is tranquilized by the expert teams who are now at Satkosia," the minister said.

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To a querry whether the state government has taken the permission of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for relocating the tigress, Routray said "We will like to keep Sundari at Nandankanan. If the NCTA does not agree, we will send the animal back to Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh from where she was brought."

The minister, however, clarified that no decision has yet been taken to send the tigress back to Madhya Pradesh.

Sundari and the relocation project

The relocation approved by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) kicked off earlier this year with two big cats: a male (T1) from Kanha Tiger Reserve, followed by a female (T2) from Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. Both tigers were brought to the 963 square km Satkosia Tiger Reserve in June, to shore up the existing tiger population of two in the reserve and thereby in the state.The number of big cats in the state ranges from 28 to 40.

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The tigress was relocated from Madhya Pradesh's Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to the Satkosia wildlife sanctuary on June 28 in a pilot inter-State transfer project to increase the big cat population in Odisha.

Two tigers, two deaths

Locals allege that Sundari is responsible for at least two fatal attacks on villagers living near the reserve.

The postmortem conducted on the body of a 65-year-old man found in Angul district indicated that he was killed by a tiger. In the second case, a woman was believed to have been killed by a wild animal, but the post-mortem could not confirm if it was a tiger attack.

Locals are demanding shifting of the tigress from the forest after it killed a man Trinath Sahu, on October 21 at Tainsi village. On September 12, the tigress had allegedly killed a 35-year-old woman in the area.

Interestingly, Sundari was not the only big cat shifted to Satkosia. Along with her MB-2, a tiger, also made the move to Odisha. But curiously, MB-2 does not appear to be harassing the villagers. Their ire is directed against Sundari.

Space Crunch

A major reason behind this whole operation is the space crunch. With the steady increase in tiger population in many reserves, there is a need to expand the tiger habitat or to relocate them in a better and safe place.

In April, a tiger (MT-1 or T-91) had been translocated to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve from Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi who had migrated to Ranthambore National Park on his own. Moreover, from Ranthambore National Park, 2 more tigresses are also going to be relocated to Mukundra in coming days.

Tigers at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve are facing space crunch and are moving to new areas on their own. As per a report, in 2016-17, four Tigers (3 male and 1 female) - T-80, T-47, T-72, and T-92 made movements in Kailadevi as a result of lack of adequate space to inhabit. T-72 was also spotted Jhiri forest area in Dholpur twice in 2017. Wildlife experts quoted this incident as an effort to explore new territories in a natural manner by the Tigers.

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