Reply of T 24 (Ustaad) episode on Ranthambhore by Aditya Singh (Dicky Singh)
First, I would like to appreciate the fact that you have narrated your views regarding the T 24 episode in your blog after five and a half months after the tragic incident involving T24 (Ustaad).
Accepting your observation as the unofficial first-hand information till now, let us discuss point wise:
Sub heading: ‘8th May, 2015, Ranthambhore National Park’:
The attack was near the barrier, very close to Gate no. 1. In your initial post on the 9th of May, you told that the wife of Rampal Saini had gone inside the forest to collect firewood and spotted a tiger nearby. Then she rushed away from the palce and informed her husband, rampal Saini, the forest guard. After that Rampal saini entered the forest alone with a stick in his hand and was attacked by a tiger. After the incidence forest guards went there and they saw two tigers, T24 (Ustaad) and T72 (Sultaan). You have mentioned that some forest guard dragged the body of Mr. Saini from the forest to the metal road. The territory where the accident happened very much belongs to T24 (Ustaad) and T72 (Sultaan), T39 (Noor) and two cubs of the last litter of Noor wewre also spotted there occasionally. Even, T24 (Ustaad) had previously been spotted in Ranthambhore main road and the Jhoomar Baori area. In February, 2015, we have seen the whole family in the Jhoomar Baori area with a Sambhar kill. In the last nine years, nobody was attacked by T24 (Ustaad), where his territory was severely under pressure from human interference. Now, the question is that, why did Rampal Saini’s wife go inside the forest to collect firewood? And after that the same mistake was done by late Rampal Saini, who entered a tiger territory alone with only a stick, knowing fully well that there was a tiger nearby. I do regret the loss of Mr. Rampal Saini and condole his family members, but my friend, trying to climb Mt. Everest without proper garments and equipment is nothing but inviting certain death.
In your blog, you mentioned that after recovering the body, T24 (Ustaad) was found sniffing that area. This is a typical behaviour of a carnivore (specially a tiger or any other members of the cat family) to visit and inspect the area by sniffing where another tiger or any other animal had made a kill. This is particularly true to tigers as they can communicate individual identity, social status, range-ownership and time of passage to other tigers by scent only. You wrote that, after sniffing T24 (Ustaad) slowly started moving to the ‘Singhdwar’ gate, all the while marking his territory. Experts on tiger’s behaviours say that, tigers increase their scent-marking (Pheromone spary), when they apprehend the presence of another tiger in their range. According to you, the tiger was in a so aggressive mood, that he charged at one of the forest department vehicles. The fact is, if any vehicle/ human being/ animal comes in close vicinity of a wild tiger, its natural instinct is to attack it for his/her own protection. Even a captive tiger in a zoo would do the same as evident from the cases that happened in Kolkata, Gwahati, Delhi zoos. After this, according to your report, the behaviour of T24 (Ustaad) is absolutely normal, which proves that he is not a man-eater.
Though you have written that you do not have any access to the political stalwarts and the forest department, I am surprised to note that, according to you, Deputy Field Director told you over telephone to wait for the ACF jeep, and then you and Mr. Dharmendra Khandal (of Tiger Watch NGO) accompanied by ACF went for monitoring of T24 (Ustaad). My question is that, while you and Mr. Dharmendra Khandal are not employees of the forest department nor none of you are tiger experts, then why, at this moment of crisis, you people entered the forest to monitor T24 (Ustaad) in a governmemt vehicle?
Another question that arises in what velocity you people were chasing T24 (Ustaad) in a government vehicle that after a sudden brake, a young, well built, experienced wild lifer (Mr. Dharmendra Khandal) fell out of the jeep? Again it is a very normal behaviour of T24 (Ustaad) that he had shown a mock charge to Mr. Khandal and the vehicle, because the tiger was disturbed from the very beginning and again after some time, a vehicle chased him in high velocity and suddenly, after braking in front of him, a man fell outside the vehicle. This is a normal behaviour of a tiger and again does not prove that T24 (Ustaad) is a man-eater.
Mr. Balendu Singh (owner of Dev Vilas resort), Mr. Jaisal Singh (owner of Sherbagh resort), you (owner of Ranthambhore Bagh resort) and Mr. Dharmendra Khandal (running one NGO named Tiger Watch) have very well rapport with political stalwarts which is evident from the fact that during their Ranthambhore visit, either they stay in these three resorts or they attend the programmes of Tiger Watch. You have already proved that you people have a very good rapport with the forest department so in moments of crisis, higher officials of the forest department like Deputy Director, A.C.F, C.F Mr. Y.K. Sahoo, DFO Mr. Sudarshan Sharma always either accompany you or take your suggestions or both, knowing fully well you are a resort owner and a non-technical person as far as wildlife crisis management is concerned.
Sub heading: ‘Did the powerful tourism lobby get t24 taken out for profit?’:
I have to admit that I am not qualified to address this issue as I am not a businessman and do not weigh my life in terms of profit and loss. But, in my last visit to Ranthambhore in October, 2015, after interactions with the villagers and some grass route level forest staffs, they have shown me some possibilities for shifting T24 (Ustaad) to Sajjangarh zoo, Udaipur and for marking him with the tag of a man-eater:
1. Sajjangarh zoo, Udaipur is controlled by Rajasthan Forest Department. After the death of Mona, the lone captive male tiger in Sajjangarh zoo, by rat bite they badly required one breeding male tiger to save their faces.
2. Majority of the wildlife photographers have already taken lots of pictures of a tourist-friendly tiger like T24 (Ustaad). A new male will surely take Ustaad’s territory (presently taken by T57) enabling photographers to take new photographs of a new tiger which will cause a boom to the tourism industry in Ranthambhore.
3. On the other hand, an opinion is that, if a man-eating tiger (as per your opinion) stays in the tourism zone, it will adversely affect the tourism industry.
4. Another opinion is that, as T24 (Ustaad) used to guard his territory viciously, it was causing some great problems to the illegal intruders to the forest, who are in a habit to enter the core area at night for their illegitimate activities inside the forest.
Sub heading: ‘So where did this Sultan killed the guard in self defence theory originate?’:
On that particular area, Sultan also was a frequent visitor. No eyewitness was there during the attack on Mr. Rampal Saini. Even at that time, his wife was not present inside the forest. The photo of the dead body of Mr. Rampal Saini was taken after the forest guards dragged his body to the metal road. Then from where ‘T24 (Ustaad) killed the guard’- this theory originates?
You are the son of the soil. Can you please tell me, where is Sultan? During T17’s (Sundari) case, social media reported first that Sundari was missing. At that time, you people were keeping mum. After a long period of time, when forest department accepted the fact that may be Sundari was killed by the poachers, you became active regarding Sundari’s poaching in social media.
Sub heading: ‘Why did the media and social media get their facts so wrong?’:
Regarding periodical protest programmes in 38 places all over India, for hoarding, posters, leaflets etc. the cost was bore by all wild life lovers. Actually we are not habituated with ‘backdoor supports’, rather not encourage the ‘backdoor supports’ in any arena and for that reason, protest is going on for T24 (Ustaad).
Sub heading: Differences between these nine attacks:
You have tried to justify the ‘man-eater’ tag of T24 (Ustaad) by citing that Ustaad killed four people with fatal bites to the neck. This is absolutely normal behaviour of a tiger that, when anything comes in close vicinity of a tiger, it will try to immobilise the intruder by biting its throat or nape. You can refer the all available videos of the attack of a tiger in Delhi zoo, where the tiger also dragged the human by his neck only, not by his leg or any other body parts! Will you call that captive animal a man-eater too?
Ustaad defended his territory effectively and he owned a prime territory too with a good habitat, stocked with enough prey which can feed three adults (Ustaad, Noor and Sultan) and two sub-adult tigers. It is hilarious that a man-eating tiger at first kills a man in 2010, then in 2012 and then in 2015. For your information, the infamous man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag was responsible for 250 deaths in 1962, the man-eating tiger of Chowgarh killed 64 people in a period of five years, man-eating tiger Bhima Shankar was responsible for 100 deaths in two years and the Thak man-eater was responsible for 4 deaths in three months.
Sub heading: Did T24 kill four people? :
In case of the first two kills, the then Chief Wild Life Warden did not give any report that T24 (Ustaad) was the killer. At the time of the first attack, T24 (Ustaad) was radio-collared and according to you, he ate the flesh of the kill. It is very easy to locate a radio-collared tiger for monitoring. Can you show any evidence that shows human flesh was found in T24’s excreta? So, the first and second attack were in lots of doubts and both the villagers illegally entered the forest area at night and without permission. In case of the third attack, yes. T24 (Ustaad) killed Mr. Gheesu Singh, a forest employee when he was monitoring the road works and gone inside the forest to release him and had a close encounter with resting T24 (Ustaad). The fact that T24 (Ustaad) was sitting on the body and growled when other people came, was a normal behaviour of a tiger. It was never been shown that T24 (Ustaad) ate any body part of Mr. Gheesu Singh. Here I should appreciate you that you have mentioned that ‘the tiger was again positively identified as T24’ which you have not mentioned in other three cases. We have already discussed about the fourth case. All the cases of attack by T24 (Ustaad) happened deep within tiger territory and inside T24’s range only.
Sub heading: Why have there been no attacks on tourists who could see T24 from very close distances:
In one point, you are right. Pilgrims visiting Ganesh temple used the main track only. Do you have any evidence of attack by T24 (Ustaad) in long five years from 2010 to 2015, during the regular foot patrolling? Again it proves that, if anybody venturing into the forest comes in close vicinity, then only T24 (Ustaad) have attacked them in self-defence only. May be, any shy tiger would have avoided this case or would have given alarm but for Ustaad that has not happened because he was tourist friendly and in every Wednesday, thousands of pilgrims disturbed his territory for Ganesh temple visit. In a nutshell, T24’s level of tolerance towards human activities increased as he was accustomed to witness human interferences in his territory, which have proven to be harmful to T24 (Ustaad) and to us as well.
Sub heading: ‘Was the relocation of T24 illegal?’ :
Absolutely yes. As per the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)- the highest body of tiger conservation in our country.
Here is the report summary of NTCA regarding Ustaad’s relocation:
NTCA Report Summary:
Here are excerpts from the report tabled by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which exonerates Tiger T-24 (Ustad) from all charges.
1) The orders issued by the Field Director to identify the animal and its monitoring does not fully conform to the prescribed constitution of the committee.
2) It could be observed from the instances that there were considerable time periods between the attacks involving T-24 on human beings in its territory. However, for the rest of the period over the years, the said Tiger was living on natural prey base in its territory. It may also be observed that in all the incidents the human beings went very close to the Tiger in its territory, paving the way for chance encounters.
3) The order (for capture & translocation) issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan does not state the reasons for translocation of the animal and the alternatives considered in connection with the relocation of the Tiger.
4) It was observed that all the fatal attacks involving T-24 occurred inside the territory of the Tiger involving human beings in close proximity. It could also be observed that the Tiger territory located inside the core area of the Tiger reserve is highly disturbed with high level of human presence & human movements which are to be addressed comprehensively.
5) It is observed that the park authorities sent a text message “Today at 4.00 p.m, a local forest guard Shri. Rampal Mali has been attacked by Tiger near entrance of the park and a detailed report shall be sent shortly” to NTCA on the day of the incident.
6) It could be observed that neither written approval from NTCA was obtained by the State Government in the matter nor any report was submitted by the park authorities until 26th of May, a good 10 days post the incident.
7) Prior permission of the NTCA / Central Government was not obtained by the Chief Wildlife Warden in the case.
8) The Order (capture & translocation) issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden of Rajasthan does not speak about the reasons for arriving at the conclusion as to why T-24 cannot be rehabilitated in the wild as required under Section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
9) Such an animal (T-24) with previous history involving fatal human attacks should have been monitored continuously by radio collaring as per SOP (Standard operating procedures) issued by the NTCA.
Conclusions of the report submitted by the NTCA :
After examining the documentary evidences provided by the park authorities, the team has come to the view that the series of actions happened after the incident were not fully conforming to procedures established by the NTCA. The said Tiger (T-24) may not be qualifying to be described as a man eater rather such incidents maybe described as consequences of chance encounters due to excessive human proximity to the Tiger in its defined habitat.
Sub heading: ‘Who took the decision to move T24’:
Does C.W.W. (Chief Wildlife Warden) of a state has the right or power to take decision about a tiher in case of National Park by invoking any act or any under any circumstances or without prejudice or incidental or subjective?
No, not in any case. If it is a National park, even the Forest Minister cannot take any decision and specifically when a tiger is involved.
As per the clause declaration of National Parks in India, Section 35, Sub section 4B.6:
4B(6): ‘No person shall destroy, exploit or remove any wildlife including forest produce from a national park or destroy or damage or divert the habitat of any wild animal by any act whatsoever or divert, stop or enhance the flow of water into or outside the national park, except under and in accordance with a permit granted by the chief wildlife warden and so such permit shall be granted unless the state government being satisfied in consultation with the National Board that such removal of wildlife from the national park is necessary for the improvement and better management of wildlife therein, authorises the issue of such permit.’
My question is that, did the authority follow this guideline T24’s relocation? Did the National Board for Wildlife give permission for T24’s relocation or were they discussed?
My dear friend, not at all.
Sub heading: ‘Who is the tiger expert?’ :
Fully accept your opinion. Yes, authors, resort owners, NGOs, politicians, media people, we are not at all tiger experts. Even, majority of the forest high officials are not tiger experts.
Suggestions to my friend:
You, having the opportunity to discuss or to exchange views for the better management of Ranthambhore National Park with the politicians and also with the departmental people, kindly request them
1. Presently, tourists are not getting Zone no. 3 through online booking and for Zone no 3 booking, tourists are paying Rs. 1000 to Rs. 7000 per safari extra as per demand. In other routes also, tourists are giving Rs. 1000 extra every safari (routes 2, 3, 4 and 5). Local people’s opinion is that, the extra money is being divided by touts, resort owners and high officials of the forest. The last part I never believe.
2. Indian government always encourage home stay facilities so that villagers also can earn money and we strongly believe that only villagers can save our forests. Please try to do this with your friends so that you can change the socio-economic structure of the villages of your area.
3. In Bandhavgarh, Kanha etc. young people from villages are learning driving and purchasing gypsis for jungle safari through bank loans, even sometimes some wildlifers of different cities are giving them money to purchase a gypsy. But in Ranthambhore, the gypsy owners are ‘Seths’ (the rich businessmen).
4. Please convince the government and the forest department to relocate some tigers in Sariska, as presently male-female ratio in Ranthambhore is not proper. Whereas, in Sariska, at present, 7 adults females, two males and four sub-adult tigers are there. It can change the socio-economic structure of the villages near Sariska also.
Fate of T24 (Ustaad):
You may agree with me that T24 is presently (if I am not wrong) nine and half years old, but still he can breed 2 to 3 litters, so if he is rehabilitated in Sariska Tiger Reserve, then a gene pool will be introduced. In Sariska, there is a big enclosure for the purpose of rehabilitation, near the helipad. Ustaad can acclimatise after captivity and after that he can be collared like other tigers of Sariska and monitored effectively.
Opinion of villagers:
In initial phases, there was a rumour that villagers strongly wants the captivity of T24. But, in last six months, we have not seen any agitation against T24 in Sawai Madhopur, rather in favour of Ustaad, agitation, dharna, deputations even request to Mrs. Priyanka Gandhi for release of Ustaad again in Ranthambhore have been seen in media and social media.
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Nilanjan Roy Chowdhury
Ustad image ©Archna Singh