Sunayan Sharma, I.F.S.(Retd), acting president, and Dinesh Verma Durani, founder secretary, Sariska Tiger Foundation, bring tiger lovers glad tidings of great joy!
It is now confirmed. On Tuesday evening, a hidden automatic camera in the Sariska Tiger Reserve confirmed news that should bring a smile to the faces of tiger lovers all over the world. There are finally cubs in the game reserve, born to the tigress coded as ST-2, introduced into the sanctuary on July 4, 2008.
Though the camera captured only one cub, the gut feel is that there could even be three. However, this is yet to be confirmed.
There is a background to the story. In 2004, after confirmation of the total loss of tigers from the world famous Sariska habitat in Alwar district of Rajasthan, the state government in collaboration with National Tiger Conservation authority, GOI, and the Wild Life Institute Of India in Dehradun, came out with an ambitious plan of reintroducing tigers from the wild. A plan was prepared to introduce five tigers in the first phase from Ranthambhore Tiger reserve.
This was opposed tooth and nail by several people linked directly or indirectly with Ranthambhore, but these were mostly powerful businessmen owning luxury hotels catering to rich tiger tourism. Surprisingly, they got strong support from some Ranthambhore-based renowned tiger conservationists as well. As a consequence, the tiger reintroduction programme was deferred several times.
However, Sariska lovers and the Rajasthan government persisted through the prime minister’s office and ultimately succeeded in introducing the first male tiger was airlifted into the sanctuary from Ranthambhore on June 28, 2008, a global first. Six days later, on July 4, a six year old tigress was similarly introduced. Since then, Sariska has been given two more males and three females from the same source till last year.
Tigresses have a gestation period of 90 to 105 days. In the case of these particular animals, there was no breeding in spite of the lapse of several litter cycles. This became a matter of serious concern and debate among the conservationists and wild life lovers.
One school of thought held that the radio collars around the necks of tigers are the chief culprits. Others felt that human and cattle disturbance were responsible, but conservationists were reluctant to accept either. The situation seemed hopeless and Sariska Tiger Foundation held two national level workshops in the last one year to find a solution to this problem. In the midst of this anxiety came the wonderful recent news about ST-2.
The first indication was when she confined herself to a small area close to Kali Ghati, called Doraka. The area had been cordoned off by the reserve management in order to check human disturbance. Then came the proof captured by the trap camera. The way forward seems wide open again!