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6 ‘missing’ Ranthambore tigers may have migrated for lack of space, field director says

Officials believe the tigers may have migrated either to a different part of the Ranthambore forest, or may have crossed the Chambal river to go to Madhya Pradesh. 

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New Delhi: Six tigers, including two cubs, which have been missing from Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park since March last year, may have migrated to other areas due to a lack of sufficient territory, a forest official said. 

“There is no territory left for new tigers, which is why the tigers are migrating,” Tikam Chandra Verma, field director of the Ranthambore tiger project, told ThePrint. 

The officials believe that the tigers may have migrated either to a different part of the Ranthambore forest, or may have crossed the Chambal river to go to Madhya Pradesh. 

“We are continuing to track camera traps. We are also in touch with neighbouring forest officials,” Verma said. 

Sources told ThePrint that the tigers were found missing when Mahendra Kumar Sharma replaced Mukesh Saini as the district forest officer (DFO) at Ranthambore in August last year. 

Sharma had asked officials to review the status of the tigers at the national park. 

While putting together this data for the new DFO, officials realised that several tigers had not been captured on the camera traps since March and April last year, a local activist told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity. 

Little space for tigers

The Ranthambore forest is spread across an area of 1,334 sq km. According to the officials, there are about 70 tigers in the reserve. 

According to Verma, the tiger project field director, female tigers usually need about 20 sq km of territory, while male tigers may need upto 100 sq km. 

“This, however, may vary depending on the amount of resources available to a tiger,” Verma said.  

“If the territory becomes too small for the population of tigers, then they are likely to migrate to other areas,” he added. “Tigers may also move out if a more powerful tiger starts to encroach their territory.” 

‘Not killed by locals’

Verma said that they have ruled out the possibility of the tigers having been killed by locals. 

“Usually when villagers lose their cattle to tigers, they retaliate by poisoning the carcass of the cattle,” he said. “But no evidence of such an incident has come forth.  

“All villagers are compensated for the loss of their cattle if they get killed by tigers. These villagers are all friends of the forest department and wild animals,” he added. 

He also noted that usually in such cases, even one tiger’s death would have gotten highlighted easily. 

Verma, however, added that if the tigers did die while fighting each other or of natural causes in the core area — which is inaccessible to humans — it would be very difficult to confirm their deaths since bodies of carnivores decompose very quickly. 

However, since the missing tigers include a family of four which usually moved around together, migration seems to be a more likely explanation, Verma added. 

While India’s tiger project has been very successful, wildlife experts have warned that tiger reserves are now completely saturated and the government needs a plan to manage excess tigers to minimise the risk of human-animal conflict.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Chhattisgarh villagers ‘ate tiger meat’, 7 cops arrested as police & forest dept probe case


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