The rescued tiger in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve is yet to have a large in-situ enclosure as per the Standard Operating Procedure of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A juvenile tiger that is being rehabilitated in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) is yet to have a large in-situ enclosure, which is necessary for the carnivore to learn hunting prey in a bigger forest terrain, as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

The tiger that was rescued as a five to nine-month-old cub from a tea estate near Valparai in September 2021 is currently kept in an open enclosure of 10,000 square feet at Manthirimattam in the core area of the ATR within the Manambolly forest range. It was released from a cage to the open enclosure in June 2022.

However, the NTCA’s SOP to deal with orphaned/abandoned tiger cubs and old/injured tigers in the wild recommends an in-situ circular enclosure of 50 hectares for the rewilding of abandoned cubs. As per the SOP, the enclosure should consist of two concentric circular plots with an inner circle of 10-15 hectares and an outer of 35-40 hectares. While the inner plot will house the tiger that is being rewilded, the outer circle is meant for prey species.

“The present enclosure of 10,000 sq.ft is too small for the tiger to learn hunting, which is essential to survive in the wild. When live animals are released into a small enclosure, it is easy for the tiger to catch them. This is very different from the natural hunting of tigers in the wild,” said a biologist on conditions of anonymity.

As per the NTCA’s SOP, such cubs should be reared in the in-situ enclosure for a minimum of two years, and each cub should have a successful kill record of at least 50 prey animals. It states that providing meat from external sources should be avoided at all cost, except for infants. The tiger cubs, which have a successful kill record, may be released in the wild in consultation with the NTCA after radio collaring, to a suitable, productive habitat within the same landscape, while considering the land tenure dynamics of tiger/presence of human settlements in the new area, the SOP states.

The Forest Department has released live animals, including rabbit and wild boar, into the enclosure and the tiger preyed on them, despite having lost one of its canines. The right upper canine of the tiger, which had a crack when it was rescued as a cub, was surgically removed in September 2022.

An official source from the Forest Department said a panel appointed by the Chief Wildlife Warden has been assessing the progress of the rewilding process and a proposal for herbivore enclosure was under consideration.


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