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Maharashtra: State committee to decide on post-capture release of tigers and leopards

Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, on Wednesday issued directions to this effect to the state-level committee, which was constituted on May 31, 2016.

Updated: Jul 23, 2020 14:05 IST

By Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times Mumbai

Maharashtra has reported a spurt of human-animal conflict cases, involving tigers and leopards, especially in Chandrapur and Nashik districts. (Getty Images)

Mumbai: A Maharashtra government-appointed committee will decide on the possible rehabilitation of tigers and leopards that have been captured from the wild due to man-animal conflict and submit their recommendations to the state forest department.

Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, on Wednesday issued directions to this effect to the state-level committee, which was constituted on May 31, 2016.

The panel’s original mandate was to monitor the rearing, training, and take a decision on release of an abandoned or orphaned tiger or leopard cub back to the wild.

Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (PPCF), (wildlife), Maharashtra, said, “Apart from assessing the re-wilding of cubs, the committee has been tasked to submit recommendations to me on a case-to-case basis for tigers and leopards rescued under section 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (captured due to human-animal conflict), how they are coping post-capture and the possibility of their release back to the wild. The panel will also suggest locations, where such big cats are safe to be released.”



Maharashtra has reported a spurt of human-animal conflict cases, involving tigers and leopards, especially in Chandrapur and Nashik districts.

Altogether, 27 people have been killed in tiger attacks, while 42 people have lost their lives across Maharashtra due to conflict with other animals this year to date.

While four tigers have been captured from Chandrapur over the past two months and sent to the Gorewada Rescue Centre in Nagpur.

But two of the four tigers died at the rescue centre because of old age and septicaemia, respectively.

Also, three leopards were trapped in Nashik and sent to a rescue centre in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. “While the rules have specified tigers, now the committee is allowed to take decisions on the release of leopards as well,” said Kakodkar.

The Gorewada Rescue Centre’s capacity to rehabilitate tigers has reached its maximum capacity of 10.

“At present, all 10 tiger enclosures are occupied. We have some capacity at Maharajbagh Zoo, Nagpur, and a few additional cages (holding areas or night shelters), where some rescued animals can be relocated,” said Kakodkar.

The state committee is headed by the additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife-east) BS Hooda, while the other members include Dr. Shirish Upadhye from the Wildlife Research and Training Centre, Gorewada, retired veterinary officer Dr. AD Kholkute, state wildlife board members Kishor Rithe and Kundan Hate, retired forest officer GK Vashishtha, and Nandkishore Kale, divisional manager, Gorewada project.

Kishor Rithe, a member of the committee and also the state board of wildlife (SBWL), justified the formation of the panel and its new mandate.

“Vidarbha landscape has more than 300 tigers, including 200 in Chandrapur district alone. We get many abandoned tiger cubs, when they lose their mothers to accidents, natural causes, etc. Some cubs are even fit to be released soon after the capture. However, in the absence of such an expert committee, their release into the wild used to be delayed. This led to the formation of this committee. However, the panel’s composition and its mandate have been tweaked in the new order such as the inclusion of captured big cats as well,” said Rithe.

The panel has also been tasked to investigate cases of orphaned tiger and leopard cubs in Maharashtra, make necessary recommendations regarding the decision to relocate them, where to send them and for what duration, and based on their rearing, training etc. whether they are fit for release back into the wild.

The additional responsibility of the committee comes at a time, when the state has decided the post-monsoon release of the female cub (T1C2) of the alleged man-eater tigress T1 or Avni, which was shot dead in November 2018.

The state forest department authorities are expected to submit a proposal to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) by end-July.

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