The sly manoeuvres of a big cat have got the better of trained foresters in Uttar Pradesh. A group of over 20 forest officials and workers have been tracking a stray tiger for more than three months now. Tired of their futile search, they are now coming around to finalising a proposal to let the big cat be where it is, and instead of trying to cage it, develop a tiger safari around it.
Forest officials say the tiger, a healthy male of four years, has strayed from its habitat in Lakhimpur Kheri, more than 200 km from Lucknow. It was first sighted in the first week of January in Hardoi, about 100 km from here. The tiger later settled down in the 400-acre farm of the Central Subtropical Horticulture Institute of the Union agriculture ministry at Rahmankheda,about 15 km from Lucknow.
Since then, over three months have passed but despite the big cat being sighted a number of times, it has defied all the foresters’ tricks to cage it. Apart from calling in Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) experts, the UP forest department also engaged the services of several darting experts, including one from Orissa, but all their efforts remained futile. The tiger has already made short work of almost a dozen calves and goats tied as bait. Cages put up at several places in the area have also failed to lure it. Some days ago, the foresters had dug a 12-feet deep pit, covered it and tied a bait in a bid to catch the tiger. The cunning cat did come and even fell into the pit but before the forest officials could reach the spot, it surprisingly managed to escape.
With their desperation and the costs of the operation mounting by the day, the forest department officials have now prepared a report proposing to develop a tiger safari around the elusive cat. The proposal includes the bringing in of two tigresses which could help in natural breeding. The tiger safari would cost about Rs10 crore and would be only the second one in the country apart from the only one in Bhopal.
A senior forest department official says the preliminary report for developing the safari notes that the tiger has made the expansive farm of the horticulture institute its home as it has all the ingredients needed for its natural habitat. The farm has a water body (a ‘nullah’) running through it which has water supply all year round. It has dense forest cover and enough natural prey for the tiger in the form of blue bulls.
“Developing a tiger safari there is the best solution in the given circumstances,” says tiger expert and former UP wildlife warden Ram Lakhan Singh. He points out that the tiger has never engaged in any conflict with human beings which, he says, is a very positive sign. “This way, UP will boast of its own tiger safari and the area can be developed as a tourist centre,” he adds.