Translocating Felids and Sariska Tiger Reserve

You may have heard about the loss of all tigers at the Sariska tiger reserve. It was a highly embarrassing situation for Project Tiger - now National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) -  management. It gradually dawned on management what had happened in and around 2004. The loss of all tigers from poaching was confirmed in January 2005. There were 15 tigers at the Sariska tiger reserve before they were poached. They probably all ended up in tiger bone wine and medicinal products in Asia. This is tragic for people who care.

There has been a gradual restocking of the park. And it seems to be very gradual. Two tigers, a male and female, were translocated in 2008. And a search of the internet indicates that as at 2011 there are five tigers (2 males and 3 females) and two new translocated cubs.

Cats are reportedly poor travellers, meaning poor at translocation and introduction to new habitats. This is due to the land tenure system employed by tigers and all wild felids. Also breeding females tend to move short distances to find their own territory which they maintain all their reproductive lives. They commonly settle into their mother's home range. Translocation upsets all that.

As for males they will encounter competition for territory. Is there enough space at Sariska? It is a relatively small tiger reserve and there are arguments that Project Tiger created reserves that are too small. The cubs will have had to have been trained in hunting by mother and find their home range against the presence of the existing tigers. The translocated tigers are at a big disadvantage. The cubs, once young adults, will be vulnerable in fights with existing tigers in their new area. Relocating wildcats not uncommonly leads to the loss of life of the translocated cats in fights with existing cats.

There are other examples of failure in managing tiger reserves in India (click for another example of a crass mistake). In spring 2010 it was reported that there would be a ban on tourism had been ordered at reserves. This was incorrect or a U turn was made. The answer was better regulation of tourism at reserves the authorities decided.


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