BHUBANESWAR: The return of tigress Sundari, currently lodged in an enclosure in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, to Madhya Pradesh has put full stop on the state’s ambitious tiger translocation project and exposed the forest department’s inefficiency.
A five-member team from Kanha will reach Satkosia on Sunday to take Sundari back, according to the order of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The Odisha government was also keen to return the tigress, which had developed man-eating tendencies.
The team, which left Kanha on Friday, will study the tigress’s behaviour and health and coordinate with the Odisha forest department officials to secure her custody. In four or five days, Sundari should be in Kanha, Kanha field director S K Singh told TOI. He added the cost of the journey of the tigress will be borne by the NTCA.
In December 2019, the NTCA had written to then Odisha chief secretary Asit Tripathy to return the tigress immediately, saying that it can’t be kept in a small enclosure any longer. The tiger translocation project at Satkosia shall remain suspended till the ground situation improved as per NTCA protocol, the letter had said.
In the first phase of the translocation project, a male Royal Bengal Tiger (RBT) named MB2 was brought from Kanha. A few days later Sundari was brought to Satkosia from Bandhavgarh wildlife sanctuary. The male RBT, as pointed out by NTCA, was killed by a snare planted by poachers. Sundari, after a few days of being release into the wild, killed two people and led to public anger. This forced the department to bring back Sundari from Satkosia’s wilds to an enclosure.
“The entire translocation was carried out hurriedly without studying the habitat. The forest department spent crores on the project that never saw light of the day. It is a waste of public money. Despite NTCA recommending stringent action against officials in the charge then, the state government is yet to fix responsibility,” said wildlife campaigner Biswajit Das.
Significantly, the NTCA had observed that the funds provided under Project Tiger were diverted without authorization from the Centre. Even after substantial fund release from the Centre, the project has not shown any significant output, the NTCA had said.
The NTCA had decided taking Sundari back to Kanha after an assessment committee appointed by it reported gross negligence in monitoring.