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Sanctuary doubled, yet tiger moves miles for own space


                                                                                 The Indian Express, Nagpur, 16th February, 2013

When a tiger leaves a protected area and moves hundreds of km away, it may mean space and/or prey-base crunch or a lopside male-female ratio.

 The dispersal of  a young male from the Nagzira sanctuary in Gondia district to Balaghat district in Madhya Pradesh through a human-dominated  landscape over the past about 40 days has shown just how inadequate even an extended protected area can be for a growing tiger population if the male female dynamics  is not right.

Crossing vast stretches of paddy fields, river, railway tracks and highways, the tiger called Aayaat (named after a rectangular shape on its tail) that left a newly- added part of sanctuary (where it was born over three years ago) about 45 days ago has become stable in a small patch of an unlikely habitat in Balaghat district over the past five days. It has killed a cattle there.

 Savan Bahekar, honorary wildlife warden of Gondia who has been monitoring the tiger since its birth, said the animal had travelled over 100 km (about 60 km aerial distance) in a zigzag fashion but was unlikely to remain at its current place for long. He said it was likely to move further towards a corridor joining Kanha Tiger Reserve or Pench Tiger Reserve, around 30 and 15 km away. The Nagzira sanctuary was extended last year from 150 sq km to about 304 sq km.

Within months of getting protection, the desperate move of the tiger in search of territory shows it could not find a foothold in its birth-place. Bahekar attributed this to lopsided male-female ration in Nagzira.

"Over the past few years till 2012, we have recorded at least 15 cubs. Now, we have a record of eight males, including the one that has migrated, and two females. One of the females is 13 years old and has given five litters. She may not breed more than once again, in which case only one female will be available to seven males. This is Panna-like situation. In Panna, skewed male-female ratio decimated tigers.

"May be this young tiger was hooted out by resident males and searching for own territory or partner, or both,” he said, adding, "We have recorded many cubs over the years, but did not know where they dispersed and how they adjusted to the lopsided male - female reality in Nagzira. This is the first time we have monitored dispersal. We need a radio-collaring effort.