Borjhuri: A pair of sub-adult tigers, which had strayed out of the Kaziranga National Park(KNP) in the north-eastern Assam state, were rescued and released within 24 hours of their capture, in a joint operation by the forest department and the Wildlife Trust of India(WTI)-managed Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC). The Tigers were released late in the evening in the eastern part of the Agoratuli range near the Matiaranga guard hut in the presence of the Field Director of the park, Mr N.K.Vasu. Although the tigers were released simultaneously, the male left first and the female left after a lag of seven minutes. The pair, which may have been from the same mother, could be seen scampering away into the thick undergrowth.
The tigers had strayed out of the heavily wooded Agoratuli range of the KNP into the neighbouring Tamuli Pathar village close to the national highway. KNP has one of the highest density of tigers among the protected areas in India , but are difficult to see due to the thick vegetation in this grassland dominated park.
Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) is a joint venture of the Assam forest department and the Wildlife Trust of India, and is supported by its partner the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). This rescue and rehabilitation facility for animals of the region is a first of its kind facility in India has handled over 300 animals in the last two years including mega-herbivores like elephants, rhinos and wild buffaloes. These were the first tigers brought to the facility in two years of its existence.
When the village of Tamuli Pathar in the eastern range of the Kaziranga National Park awoke on Sunday, little did they know of the excitement that lay ahead for them. Around 7.30 am some of the inhabitants spotted two tigers attacking their cattle close to their dwellings on the fringe of the forest.
By the time the villagers reacted, the tigers had managed to kill four cows and an angry mob of 2000 villagers went chasing after them. The immature tigers flummoxed and frightened by this response ran into heavy scrub close to the village and hid there. As the crowd surrounded the area the office of the Agoratuli range was informed and the Range Forest Officer (RFO), Mr. A. Alam reached the spot around 10:00 am . According to eyewitnesses the people were in a mood for revenge and the panic stricken tigers fortunately remained in the bush. Looking at the situation the local administration approached the nearby army camp to control the angry mob as the CWRC team rushed in to help with the rescue operations.
“We brought in five camp elephants from the forest department to flush the tigers out,” Rathin Burman, the CWRC Manager described in graphic detail the day long saga of the rescue operation. “It was very difficult to spot the tigers in the thicket. We first spotted the male tiger near a hut around 4pm . The RFO of the central range, D. D. Boro tranquilized him with a dart from an elephant and we quickly moved the tiger to CWRC. The second tiger, a female was darted an hour later and moved to CWRC.”
At the rescue centre, the male tiger was housed into a squeeze cage located next to a cage that already houses a leopard. The leopard has been at the CWRC for some time and it did not take kindly to the presence of a new neighbour. The female tiger was put into another cage brought in by the forest department.
Dr Bhasker Chowdhury, the center veterinarian estimated the tigers to be two years old. “Both tigers are sub-adults, as their milk teeth had fallen off and the canines were well developed and stained, showing that they had been put to good use,” Dr Chowdhury said. There were doubts if the mother of these cubs was in the vicinity, but their age showed that they may have left their mother on their own.
“While the male tiger recovered from the effects of the tranquilizer on his own, the female was put on reversal drugs to hasten her revival,” Burman said. “On awakening they both tried to escape, but gradually quietened down and relished a meal of 1 kg mutton in the night.”
Meanwhile, this morning WTI headquarters consulted experts with experience in carnivores and big cats. Dr Ulhas Karanth, Dr AJT Johnsingh, Dr Ravi Chellam and Dr Ajith Kumar were consulted and their advice was sent to the director of KNP, Mr N.K. Vasu, who after consultations decided to release the tigers. The experts were of the opinion that an increase in captivity time for the tigers may result in the animals being adversely imprinted.
The animals were released late in the evening in the eastern Agoratoli range near the Matiaranga guard hut . “This spot was chosen because forest guards had earlier sighted two sub-adult tigers in this area which could be the same pair,” Burman said.
Click here for a first person account of the exciting release operation.