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Ranthambore lost its most famous tiger because of hoteliers' lobby


                                                                                                                                     The Times of India, Jaipur, 19th May, 2015

JAIPUR: Ranthambore hoteliers, scared that the park's most-watched tiger may scare away guests leaned on and used their clout to have T24 relocated to Udaipur zoo, and got the operation so secret that even forest minister Raj Kumar Rinwa was kept in the dark, sources told TOI on Monday. T24 was shifted on Saturday after it was suspected to have killed a forest guard the week before.

In fact, at the time of shifting, Rinwa was in the process of forming a committee to verify whether it was T-24 or some other tiger which had attacked humans. But suddenly he was told about the futility of the exercise since T-24, popularly known as 'Ustaad', was already half way towards Udaipur zoo.

Sources said Rinwa had requested Rajya Sabha MP VP Singh Badnore to head the committee. Badnore had reportedly recommended conservationists Valmik Thapar and Rajpal Singh Shekhawat as other members.

According to sources, some hoteliers lobbied for the shifting to Udaipur as they feared that the presence of T24, which had its territory around Ranthambhore Park gate, could hamper their business by scaring away the tourists.

"Hoteliers at Ranthambhore were divided. Majority was in favour of keeping the tiger at the park as it was the most sighted one," said a wildlife expert. He added that there was a dispute among the forest staff about the identity of the tiger that killed the forest guard. "Forest officials were confused between T72 and T24," the expert said and added, "However, a handful of lobbyists supporting T24's shifting were more powerful and succeeded in their design."

Insiders said experts had suggested to chief minister Vasundhara Raje that even if T24 was attacking humans, it could be shifted to the Sariska reserve or Mukundra, a new forest zone adjacent to Ranthambore identified for tiger reserve expansion.