A DOU­BLE-EDGED BLESS­ING?

India Today - - UPFRONT - —Rahul Noronha

From no tigers in 2009 to a sat­u­ra­tion point where it can no longer sup­port its tiger pop­u­la­tion, the Panna Tiger Re­serve has come a long way in the in­ter­ven­ing eight years. The 542 square kilo­me­tre ex­panse of for­est is cur­rently home to more than 30 tigers, a habi­tat un­der threat from the pro­posed Ken Betwa river link project. Tigers brought into the re­serve as part of a source pop­u­la­tion, un­der the rein­tro­duc­tion pro­gramme ini­ti­ated in 2009, have bred among them­selves and reached these num­bers.

An­other con­ser­va­tion milestone was at­tained last week when Panna re­ported the birth of a third gen­er­a­tion of tigers. Two tiger cubs were sighted in the Sarb­hanga forests of Chi­trakoot district in Ut­tar Pradesh, 125 km from the Panna re­serve. The cubs, aged about five months, are said to be the off­spring of a ti­gress from the Panna re­serve as­signed the call sign P213-22 and a tiger from the re­serve who’d made the Sarb­hanga forests their home. “The tigers in Chi­trakoot are from the F2 gen­er­a­tion. The birth of an F3 gen­er­a­tion im­plies that a meta-pop­u­la­tion (dis­tinct from the source pop­u­la­tion) is tak­ing shape else­where in the land­scape away from the area of the re­serve. This is a good sign,” said R. Srini­was Murthy, former field direc­tor of Panna Tiger Re­serve.

Wildlife ex­perts point out that tigers do wan­der out of their ter­ri­to­ries, but the mov­ing out of a ti­gress from a ter­ri­tory it has grown up in sug­gests the habi­tat has reached sat­u­ra­tion in terms of tiger num­bers. Ti­gress P21322 moved out of Panna to the Sarb­hanga forests in 2015.

AJAY TI­WARI

AT HOME A big cat in­side the Panna Tiger Re­serve

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