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Corridor to give big cats more space in Rajasthan

Jaipur: Even as the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported a 50 percent increase in the population of tigers in the wild in India with their population now estimated at 3,200 after years of dangerously dwindling numbers, there is fresh cause for worry for tigers in sanctuaries.

As tiger-numbers increase in reserve areas, territorial fights are becoming frequent. In Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park, the large number of tigers dying because of such fights has led to the state government planning for a corridor connecting this sanctuary with the adjoining Keladevi Sanctuary, an official said Friday.

The new corridor will come up at an estimated cost of Rs.200 crore. About 45 villagers will need to be relocated to create the corridor, an official said.

The decision to create such a corridor was taken following the mysterious death of a yet-to-identified tiger in Ranthambore recently. Senior forest department officials said preliminary investigation hints at the possibility of the majestic cat being killed in a territorial fight.

"The state government has sought Rs.200 crore from the central government for developing the corridor. We are hopeful of receiving the money in the near future," a senior forest department officer told IANS.

Four tigers were killed in territorial fights over the past four years in Ranthambore National Park, leaving environmentalists worried that as the tiger population increases, there is also need to create a habitat in which they can thrive.

The tigers are overlapping each other's territory. To get their share of space, the big cats are fighting each other to death in the reserve in Sawai Madhopur district, some 150 km from Jaipur, wildlife experts said.

A tigress died in the reserve area Dec 23, and the death was attributed to a territorial fight with another cat. The mutilated, maggot-ridden carcass of the tigress was recovered from the reserve's Gilai Saga-Khadar area early Sunday morning, officials said.

A senior forest department officer told IANS that a probe has been launched into the animal's death.

"Prima facie, injuries suggest the death occurred in a territorial fight with another tiger. However, we are awaiting the post-mortem report to ascertain the cause, and rule out poaching," a wildlife officer said.

The number of such fights had been increasing in the recent past, the officer said.

A tiger named T-36 died of serious head injuries during a territorial fight with T-42 Aug 22, 2010. The body of tigress T-4 was found April 4, 2009. Officials had concluded that she was attacked by another tiger in a territorial fight.

Similarly, tigress T-15 was killed Sep 1, 2008.

According to a census conducted by the state forest department in 2009, there were 40 tigers in and around Ranthambore National Park and Sawai Madhopur wildlife sanctuary. The census conducted in the core division from April 30 to May 10, 2009 revealed that there were 14 males, 16 females and 10 cubs.

However, a recent survey found that the number of tigers has increased to 52, including 26 cubs.

"The core area of the reserve is spread over 1,113.36 sq km. Besides, the buffer zone earmarked by the state government around the reserve is 297.9 sq km. The area is inadequate for housing 52 tigers," a wildlife expert said.

He added that a tigress may require a 20-sq km territory, while the individual territories of males are much larger, covering 40-80 sq km or more.

                                                                          The Financial World, Jaipur, 29th December, 2012