Maharashtra seeks CBI probe into missing tiger

Maharashtra seeks CBI probe into missing tiger

Mumbai, Aug 24 (IANS) The Maharashtra government has asked for a CBI probe to trace the state’s biggest male tiger ‘Jai’, reported missing for several months now, an official said here on Wednesday.

Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Wednesday met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi and made the plea for the Central Bureau of Investigation probe as Jai is missing since April 18 from Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra.

The meeting follows a statement by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok Sabha member from the Bhandara-Gondiya constituency, Nana Patole, on Tuesday that the magnificent tiger may have een killed since there is no trace of him for quite some time.

Patole also claimed that Jai’s grandfather ‘Rashtrapati’, father ‘Dhendu’ and brother ‘Veeru’ are also missing.

“As this statement is very serious, the CBI should take up the investigation, obtain evidence on Jai from Nana Patole and conduct further probe,” Mungantiwar said.

Mungantiwar said he will meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis shortly regarding the probe by the CBI.

He said that Jai or UK-T1, living in the Umred-Karhandla sanctuary near Nagpur, was unaccounted for long, causing anxiety among wildlife and tiger lovers.

Born in Nagzira sanctuary, a tiger reserve near Bhandara, Jai travelled around 100-120 km from there. In June 2013, hidden cameras revealed he had entered the Umred-Karhad sanctuary, spread across Nagpur-Bhandara districts on around 190 sq. km.

Jai quickly became popular among wildlife lovers and tourists and the sanctuary staff closely monitored his movements.

Jai roamed the forests of Brahmapuri, Pavani, Umred, Nagpur and on the outskirts of the sanctuary around 10-15 km, besides in private areas, making a round of these areas in around a fortnight.

Three tigresses from Umred-Karhandla Sanctuary gave birth to nine cubs, including seven males, all fathered by Jai. The cubs are now between 24-30 months old.

On September 15, 2015, a team of vets comprising Dr Bilal Habib and Dr Parag Nikam from the Indian Wildlife Organisation, attached a radio collar on Jai to track his movements, determine his territory and ensure his safety.

However, due to a technical glitch, the satellite connection with the radio collar was broken though his ground tracking continued.

On March 18, Habib and Nikam attached another radio collar on Jai and tracked him roaming around in the Brahmapuri forests.

A month later, the new radio collar’s link with the satellite also snapped. Since then, efforts are underway to track Jai but in vain.

Jai is estimated to be around seven to eight years old and at his age, other younger and fitter tigers can challenge the dominant male over territory.

Considering the relatively small area of the Umred-Karhandla sanctuary, it is not possible for seven to eight tigers to live together. It is suspected that Jai may have migrated to some other place with no tiger competing for territory.

Nevertheless, the Forest Department is continuing its search for Jai. A team has gone into the forest to locate him but no concrete evidence on his whereabouts has been obtained till date.

Of the total 47 tiger reserves in India, Maharashtra has six, including Bor, Tadoba, Melghat, Pench, Sahyadri and Nagzira, with an estimated 190 tigers. Jai was the biggest of them and weighed 250 kg.

Recently, the Maharashtra government engaged Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador for the state’s tigers.

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