From Nagarahole to Bandipur: T-18’s 80-km journey
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From Nagarahole to Bandipur: T-18’s 80-km journey

October 16, 2019

Mysuru: The tiger that was tranquillised and captured near Bandipur Tiger Reserve on Sunday is under close observation at the Chamundi Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre set up by Mysuru Zoo at Koorgalli on the outskirts of Mysuru. The middle-aged tiger is in a healthy condition, Forest Department officials said.

In a massive hunting operation lasting five days, the tiger was traced and captured on Sunday in the forest with the help of Soliga tribals, who are experts in hunting wild animals on foot.

The tiger remained elusive since Oct.9 after claiming farmer Shivappa as its second victim a day earlier and a month after mauling Shivamadaiah, another farmer to death inside the forest. It had also killed 14 cattle heads during the last two months. 

From Nagarahole to Bandipur

Tracking the footprints of the big cat, officials and experts said that it was identified in Nagarahole a year ago. The tiger, in the last one year, had been wandering in search of territory through several forest ranges and ended up in the buffer area of Gopalaswamy Betta Range in Bandipur. 

Thanks to the ever-vigilant Forest Department when it comes to tiger population, the number of big cats is increasing as the animals are finding new territories. Tight curbs on poaching have also contributed to the population increase.

The captured big cat was previously camera-trapped in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve near Dammanakatte (Kabini) in Antharasanthe Range and it was named “T-18.” It was first photographed in 2017 in Antharasanthe Range. The tiger was first photographed by Jeevan Chandrashekar at Dammanakatte while it was drinking water at Nayanjikere.

80-kilometre journey

The tiger was spotted at Moolehole Range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve in December 2018. In about a year’s time, the tiger had walked about 80 km from Nagarahole National Park to Bandipur Tiger Reserve in search of territory. Forest officials said the tiger was looking for a new territory and food. The feline was pushed out of every place by other tigers and had made the border of Gopalaswamy Betta Range, near Maguvinahalli and Hundipura villages its territory.

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Five tigers in region

There are over five tigers in Chowdahalli, Hundipura, Mangala and surrounding areas and this information was relayed by villagers to the Forest Department.

Among the five tigers, one was killed recently near Melukamanahalli by a speeding vehicle in the vicinity of Jungle Lodges and Resorts. Fearing repercussions, the inmates of the vehicle had dragged the dead tiger’s body and had dumped it near a compound before fleeing the spot.

Map showing the route taken by the tiger to walk from Nagarahole to Bandipur.

“T-18” emerges

In their efforts to identify the killer tiger among the four tigers, Forest Department officials and authorities from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) scanned the visuals of more than 200 cameras placed in the border areas. Matching the features in their database, they were surprised to see the same “T-18” in Bandipur. 

Officials matched the features and realised that the tiger had travelled over 80 kilometres in search of territory. Males usually occupy territory and will not allow other males to enter its domain. In case any male enters, there will be territorial fights and there are instances of dominant male killing the fellow male and occupying the territory.

Safe place to hunt

This particular tiger is a sub-adult and did not possess the strength or skill to defeat a huge dominant male. It was buying time and was in search of a safe place to hunt and mate. It had chosen a buffer zone between Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks. 

A buffer zone is a place that links the territory of two tigers and this place is generally not occupied by another tiger. However, the captured tiger had chosen this buffer zone, officials said. 

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In its path, the tiger took the Kabini backwaters, Nugu Dam, National Highway 212 (now 766), Gopalaswamy Hill and Melukamanahalli. It had taken refuge at places including abandoned buildings, fields of farmers and places that are filled with wild grass and bushes. It used to get easy prey as cattle used to frequent the fields.

Both Shivappa and Shivamadaiah were cowherds and the “T-18” would have killed them either due to fear or hunger, officials said. Banking on cattle and human beings, the tiger had made the forest fringes its territory, officials said.

Time to settle down

Meanwhile, officials said that they are giving time to let the tiger settle down in a holding room at Chamundi Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. 

The feline will be subjected to a thorough veterinary medical check-up once it settles down. 

They said that wild animals are not handled immediately, and it is only after they settle down, their weight, height and other indicators are measured. The settling down time varies from animal to animal as some take 4-5 days to become normal.

The tiger is fed beef once a day and offered water. No medicines are given as it has no internal or external injuries though it was hit twice with a dart to tranquillise it for capturing, officials added.

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