Tigers released to play mating game – and rescue species


In the wilds of an Indian nature reserve, a soap opera is gripping the nation. The hero of the drama is a four-year-old male tiger who was flown to the Rajasthan park by wildlife officials and released last week. Yesterday, the heroine, a similarly aged female, was also set free from a holding pen inside the reserve. Now it is up to the two cats to play their parts.

"This is a real attempt to try and do something to help the tigers," said Valmik Thapar, a tiger expert and member of India's National Board of Wildlife. "There has been real consultation with the experts, and the tigers were carefully selected. All efforts have gone into doing this the right way."

The two wild tigers were moved to the Sariska Tiger Reserve from the Ranthambore National Park, also in Rajasthan, as part of a relocation experiment that has not been tried in India for at least 70 years. If successful, officials hope to move three more wild tigers to Sariska in the next six months.

The experiment is an attempt to confront India's most pressing wildlife crisis: a tiger population that once stood at more than 100,000 but could now be as low as 1,300. Loss of habitat and a failure to prevent poachers supplying the Asian trade in tiger parts has brought to the edge of extinction an animal that more than any other symbolises the majesty of nature.

Nowhere better demonstrates that tragedy than Sariska, which was once a royal hunting ground before being turned into a national park in 1979. In 2005 it was revealed that poachers had succeeded in wiping out all the tigers in the park. Shocked, the Indian government backed plans to relocate wild tigers from other parts of the country to try to raise the numbers. Ranthambore has 45 tigers, including 14 cubs, and there have been reports of territorial fights in which the older animals chasing some of the younger tigers from the forest.

Last week, Indian Air Force helicopters flew the Ranthambore tigers to Sariska. The male was released over the weekend and reportedly killed a cow that had been left for it. Yesterday the female was freed. Officials hope the pair will soon mate.

Belinda Wright, head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said this was the first time that a scientifically monitored experiment (both the tigers are fitted with tracking collars) had been tried anywhere in the world. "It's a bold initiative," she said. "Tigers are very tenacious – Ranthambore has itself twice had its tigers wiped out, and they bounced back."

The decline of the tiger is not confined to India. Within the last century it is estimated that tiger populations across the world have fallen by 95 per cent. Of the nine known sub-species of tiger, three are already extinct while there may be as few as 30 South China tigers in the wild.

While India's population of tigers has fallen drastically, it is perhaps here that conservationists are fighting hardest for the animals. "The killing of the entire population in Sariska was devastating, but we hope the reintroduction of the species in this reserve will spawn a new population and ultimately expand the region where tigers can grow and flourish," said Dr Sybille Klenzendorf, a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature. "It is imperative that we take action now to keep [tigers] from disappearing altogether."

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower