Bhubaneswar, Dec 19 (LocalWire) In a major setback to the tiger conservation programme in the state, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has decided to withdraw tigress Sundari to her original habitat in Madhya Pradesh and suspend the tiger translocation programme at Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR) till ground situation improved.
‘In the interest of tiger conservation, T-2 or tigress Sundari shall be withdrawn and brought to Ghorela centre at Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh with immediate effect for re-wilding and subsequent release to a suitable habitat.
The tiger translocation programme at Satkosia Tiger Reserve shall remain suspended till the ground situation in the field improves as per NCTA guidelines,’ said deputy inspector general, NTCA, Surender Meher in an official communique.
The project on Augmentation and Recovery of Tiger Population in STR was approved in 2017 and permission to translocate a tiger from Madhya Pradesh to STR in Odisha was also accorded by the Centre.
However, the state government failed to ensure a safe habitat to the two translocated big cats, Mahaveer and Sundari in Satkosia Tiger Reserve. While T-1 Mahaveer was found dead, T-2 Sundari is kept in an enclosure since the last year due to protest by locals.
It was the country’s first inter-state tiger translocation initiated in 2018.
A panel headed by Khageshwar Naik, retired CCF and former field director of Kanha Tiger Reserve, MP, formed by the NTCA to assess the tiger augmentation programme in the STR found that Odisha had failed to adhere to the protocol as well as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and pointed out various irregularities and financial mismanagement while implementing the country’s first inter-state translocation project.
The panel observed that while translocating and after translocation, both the animals were not monitored and managed as per the NTCA protocol.
‘The tigress T2 brought from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to STR was captured without following due process laid down by the NTCA and relevant provision of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The tigress has been kept in a small enclosure for more than a year without any effort to re-wild the same as per protocol,’ said the panel.
Not only SOPs were violated but funds meant for the safety of the translocated tigers, too, were diverted without authorization from the NTCA. Further, even after substantial fund release, the project has not shown any significant input.
Also, the pre-requisite condition for reintroduction of big cats in STR like prey augmentation, creating inviolate space, eco-development, capacity building of staff and enhancement of protection could not be achieved in spite of sufficient fund availability and technical support to the tiger reserve, said the report.