Officials, activists divided over tiger cubs relocation
JAIPUR, Friday 29th July 2011

Sariska's jinx with cubs continues. The latest controversy to grip Sariska comes after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) approved relocation of two cubs, left orphaned by the death of the Kachida tigress at Ranthambore within six months after it was operated upon by the forest authorities.

However, even now senior forest officials are confused whether to relocate the cubs. Interestingly, the NTCA's approval has come only after the state sent it a proposal seeking permission for it.

"The cubs are well-settled in Ranthambore. What is the need to relocate them to Sariska? Moreover, they are very young and the process of tranquilising them before relocation may prove detrimental to their health," said a senior forest official.

They explained the proposal was sent about six months ago and the situation has changed much since then. "There are grown-up tigers roaming in Sariska and the cubs might just stray into their territory and get killed," he added.

But wildlife activists are not willing to buy any of the claims of the officials. "The cubs are more prone to attacks from elder tigers in Ranthambore than at Sariska. Ranthambore is overpopulated and even sub-adult tigers have often strayed from the forest in search of a territory. In such a situation the cubs stand no chance," they added.

Activists also say the original plan sent to NTCA was not to catch the cubs and leave them at Sariska. "The proposal was to leave them in the cage that is built in Sariska where we normally leave any relocated tiger for a period for acclimatisation. Here we could have taught the cubs to hunt on their own by releasing deer within the cage. Once they grew up we could have left them in the wild. Not relocating them after permissions from the NTCA might amount to taking all the responsibility of the well-being of the cubs in Ranthambore on our shoulders," they say.

When contacted, U M Sahai, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan, said, "We have received the NTCA permission. However, since it is such a long time since the proposal was sent we will write again to the authorities to learn of their opinion as to whether the relocation should be done now."