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Search for Sundari bears no frui

                                                                                                     The Hindu, New Delhi, 30th April, 2013

A massive hunt launched for tracing Sundari, the seven-year-old tigress missing from Ranthambhore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan for over a month, has so far remained futile. Sundari, marked as T-17 tigress, has left her three cubs to fend for themselves.

Sundari’s disappearance has put the lives of the three 11-month-old cubs at a great risk, as they are not yet fully trained in hunting. They were sighted first at different locations and later together in the tiger reserve. The forest authorities were preparing to put bait to feed them.

State Forest and Environment Minister Bina Kak, who was camping in Ranthambhore over the week-end to monitor the search operations, returned here on Monday after giving instructions for putting more camera traps at the locations where the tigress could be moving around.

“I am told it is not unusual for a tigress to leave her cubs and go away in search of food from eight to ten days. Personally I am hopeful, but in any case I am ordering extensive search and monitoring of not just Sundari but all the tigers at Ranthambhore,” said Ms. Kak, who went to the tiger reserve despite her fractured ankle.

Ms. Kak has asked the forest officials to get the latest pictures of all tigers and assured the rangers that more cameras and camera traps would be arranged for them: “There is no point in putting more guards. We don’t want any disturbance to animals. I hope Sundari returns to her cubs soon.”

Earlier, four teams were deployed as search parties with the Assistant Conservators of Forest and range officers leading the staff. In all, more than 110 people were deployed in the combing operation. The teams covered Amba Ghati, Badlav, Tamba Khan, Kacchidah and other areas inside the national park.

Two of the cubs, who were looking week, were sighted near Bhadlav Talab and the third near Dhakda. All the three were later sighted together, but their mother was yet to be traced.

Sundari was born in 2006 along with two other female cubs to Machhli, the queen mother of Ranthambhore’s tiger dynasty. One of her siblings has been shifted to Sariska wildlife sanctuary and another is in Ranthambhore.

The tigress was often sighted by tourists until she gave birth to three cubs last year. She had found her territory between Kachida and Badlav after leaving her favourite lake area which was occupied by a male tiger.

The forest’s trap cameras had last spotted her presence in the first week of March. The Ranthambhore National Park had witnessed the death of a tiger on March 19 when the carcass of T-37 was spotted by tourists. Investigations revealed that the tiger had died of internal injuries.