At the onset i must apologize for my emotional outburst in this note. No one is to blame here, definitely not the forest department, for they are doing their best in the given limited circumstances to ensure that wildlife lives longer. Having said that, why do we need to translocate Tigers, or any other wildlife for that matter? Why can’t humans be translocated instead, and asked to vacate the corridors which 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, “Translocating 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 translocation? 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 tranquilised 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 travelled, 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? He does not even know why he has been punished, what wrong did he do? Where has his home suddenly disappeared? Worst is he cannot even share his heart with anyone. Where are those trees where he 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 whor 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?
The decision to translocate the Tigers to Satkosia was taken a few months back when there was a demand from Orissa asking for Tigers, as only 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 couple of ways:
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 area are available where the Tigers can establish their territory.
Photos by the MP Forest department
Identifying Tigers to shift, tranquilizing them and shifting is the easy part. The tough part for the Orissa forest department begins now. Their commitment to the cause will be put to test. A soft release into an enclosure will be done first, 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.
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 had covered half the distance, almost 200kms when he was again put back in Panna. 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 more we fail the more we improve.
Every Tiger behavior is unique and he has his own mind. He might, or might not accept the new surroundings. Just couple of months back the Tiger translocated 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 waiting to happen. So the forest department must be prepared for this as well.
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 behavior will not be acceptable to mankind. I would hate to see any of these translocated Tigers being poisoned by locals, or being sent to 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 Kumar Vats