Tiger cub Mangala begins rewilding lessons
WITH bad hindlimbs and cloudy eyes, she was too feeble when found abandoned by her mother near a forest temple on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border last year.
From that frail 60-day-old tiger cub, Mangala is now ready to learn the basics of survival and hunting skills in the sprawling Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), located in the Western Ghats.
When International Tiger Day falls on Thursday (July 29), a group of forest personnel, under the aegis of PTR deputy director Sunil Babu, on Thursday began the rewilding process of the female tiger cub in the reserve forest, spread over 777 sq km. The reserve, currently, has 42 tigers.
The nearly nine-month-old animal, reared in these months under the watchful eyes of the forest officials, would be given training to go back to her wild habitate as per the protocol of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Mr. Babu said.
“Rewilding is a process to familiarise the animal with the environment of a natural forest. It will learn hunting and other survival skills as part of the procedure under our observation,” he told PTI.
According to the NTCA protocol, the tiger cub should be reared in an in situ enclosure for a minimum of two years.
“Normally, the animal would be released in the original forest after two years of rewilding. Here, we will decide about its release after observing the nature and health condition of the animal,” he said.
As part of the rewilding process, the baby big cat would be shifted to a ‘cage’ which is spread on a nearly half-hectares forestland inside the PTR. Though the animal would be given some feed like domestic animals such as goat in the initial period, it is expected to learn hunting down prey in the later days.
“To give maximum feel of its natural habitat, there will be no human presence in the enclosure in the later months,” the official said.
Though it is an expensive procedure, the exact cost is yet to be estimated, he added.
The tiger cub was suspected to have been abandoned by its mother, but officials spotted the tigress lurking around the Mangaladevi temple nearly a week after it was rescued on November 21 last year.
Officials believed the cub was left alone in the wild when the tigress was engaged in a fierce internecine combat of tigers in the forest. - The Hindu