Days after a tigress was reported missing from Rajaji Tiger Reserve, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Wednesday sought a factual report from the Uttarakhand forest department in this regard.
In a letter to chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand forest department and field director of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Vaibhav C Mathur, assistant inspector general of forests, NTCA, has sought “factual status in the matter at the earliest”.
On Tuesday, Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation (CWEL) Foundation, had written to the NTCA about the missing tigress.
Bhanu Bansal, founder of CWEL Foundation said, “Not being able to keep track of the national animal in such a manner clearly shows the red tape attitude of Rajaji administration. It is the duty of the officials to protect and conserve the wildlife in their jurisdiction. We have sought urgent intervention by NTCA in this regard and hope that the forest department will be able to find the missing tigress.”
On Monday, Uttarakhand forest department started a search operation to find the tigress and deployed four teams on elephants to search for her.
The tigress, between 18 and 20 years of age, went missing from the western part of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and has not been sighted or camera-trapped in almost two months.
Officials from Rajaji Tiger Reserve on Wednesday said they had found signs of the tigress in one of the ranges and were working to confirm if it was the same animal.
Rajaji Tiger Reserve director DK Singh said, “We found a long trail of pug marks in the Kansaro range of the reserve on Wednesday. The size of the pug marks matches with the dimensions of the tigress’ paws from earlier records. To confirm her presence, we are installing camera traps in the whole area and we should be able to get an image within a few days.”
Rajaji Tiger Reserve has only two tigresses in the western part and five tigers from Corbett are to be translocated to increase the population soon. The area from where the tigress has gone missing is important because of the translocation process, raising questions on security aspects.
State-based wildlife activist AG Ansari said, “We have been hearing for years about the translocation process, but first, the resident tigers need to be protected in Rajaji. When the first translocation process happened in Sariska Tiger Reserve, the tigers were poached; we do not want a similar situation to be repeated here.”
During the last tiger estimation, it was found that the reserve had 34 resident tigers, including 32 in its eastern part, which is spread across a 150 sq km area and two in the western part, which covers 570 sq km.
The eastern and the western part of the reserve are divided by a busy traffic corridor, making it difficult for the tigers to migrate between the two parts.