The curious journey of a trapped tiger
The tiger ‘BPT-241' minutes before its release in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve. ‘BPT-241' had travelled 280 km in just over a year, camera-trap images reveal
A wild tiger that was captured on May 1 after it attacked three people in Shikaripur taluk of Shimoga district, has become the unlikely contributor of clues into an important aspect of the big cat's behaviour.
When scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) compared the stripe patterns of this young male tiger with images in their camera-trap database, they identified it as ‘BPT-241', which, they deduced, had travelled 280 km in the year before it landed in Shikaripur.
“This… is one of the longest scientifically recorded dispersals of wild tigers in the world based purely on camera-trapping data,” said senior scientist at WCS Ullas Karanth. The tiger was last camera-trapped in Gundre area of Bandipur Tiger Reserve on February 18, 2010. GIS maps showed that the “straight line” distance travelled by this tiger was 280 km, though the actual route it took is likely to have been more circuitous.
On May 1, forest officials of the Shimoga Wildlife Division captured the tiger that had strayed into Gama village in Shikaripur and attacked a group of people gathered to get a better look at it. One man died in the attack. The authorities of the Department of Forests, however, decided to release the animal rather than hold it in perpetual captivity after they established that the tiger had no history of man-eating and was healthy.
The tiger was released a week later at Hipla Hadlu, in the middle of the Bhadra Tiger Reserve, a location that was both remote from human disturbances and supported high prey densities.
Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) had sometime back recorded a similar event when a young male tiger, ‘BDT-130', camera-trapped in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve in 2006 was photo-captured again 197 km away in Dandeli in 2008.
Radio-tracking studies in Nepal, Russia and Madhya Pradesh have showed that young male tigers disperse out of the place of their birth when they are a year-and-a-half or two-years-old, searching for suitable territories to settle in, Dr. Karanth said.
“However, such dispersing tigers which move long distances are highly vulnerable to conflict with humans or with other resident tigers and also at the risk of being killed in the process.”
This incident had shown the value of intensive annual camera-trapping, which is reportedly going to be adopted at the national level under the proposed phase IV national tiger estimation by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, he added.
CWS scientists are now intensively camera-trapping in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve area in the hope that the animal will settle down there.
Tiger treks 280km in search of own territory
NEW DELHI: A young male tiger, wandering through Karnataka's forests in search of a patch to call its own, has achieved a feat that will put it in the record books. In 15 months, the tiger travelled 280km as the crow flies, more than the straight-line distance between Delhi and Shimla, the longest documented distance traversed by a tiger anywhere in the world.
This came to light after a tiger was caught in Gama village near Shikaripur town of Karnataka's Shimoga district on May 1. It had strayed into a betelnut plantation and was stoned by a mob. The cornered tiger attacked and killed a man before it was tranquilized by forest officials.
On May 7, at an event watched by Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh, the tiger was released in the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. Photographs taken during the tiger's release were analysed by scientists of the Centre for Wildlife Studies, a wildlife NGO which has been camera-trapping in Karnataka's forests for around two decades.
"Photo-matching with our database, the animal was reliably identified as male tiger BPT-241, last camera-trapped in Gundre, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, on February 11 and February 18, 2010," said Dr K Ullas Karanth, head of CWS India.
"A GIS map showed that the straight line distance moved by this tiger since its photo-capture from Bandipur to Shikaripur is about 280km. The actual distance travelled by it would be more than 350km," Karanth said.
Looking at the map, one could say the tiger would have generally moved through forest patches but would also have traversed through coffee plantations, he added.
Karanth said though young male tigers were known to travel long distances to establish their territory, this is the longest dispersal documented through camera-trapping or radio-telemetry.
In 2006, a young male tiger, BDT-130, was camera trapped in Bhadra forests and then again in Dandeli in 2008. The straight line dispersal in that case was 197km. A radio-collared tiger in Russia was found to have travelled 195km.
Late last year, a young male tiger created a scare among villagers near Mathura in western UP, which experts at the Wildlife Institute of India said, had come from Ranthambore. The tiger then made its way to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, from where it was relocated to Sariska.
"We have not seen any documentary evidence of the distance travelled by that tiger," said Karanth. " WII has been running a camera-trapping project in Ranthambore for the past five years. If there is proof that this tiger came from there, the evidence should be made public,"Karanth added.
Meanwhile, more camera traps have been placed in Bhadra to track the fate of BPT-241. Like all tigers, he will have to compete with other males to establish his territory, Karanth said.