Hoteliers' lobby shift Tiger in Ranthambore
May 19, 2015, 12.00 AM IST
JAIPUR: Ranthambore hoteliers, scared that the park's most-watched tiger may scare away guests used their clout to have T24 relocated to Udaipur zoo, and got the operation so secret that even forest minister Raj Kumar Rinwa was kept in the dark, sources told TOI on Monday. T24 was shifted on Saturday after it was suspected to have killed a forest guard the week before.
In fact, at the time of shifting, Rinwa was in the process of forming a committee to verify whether it was T-24 or some other tiger which had attacked humans. But suddenly he was told about the futility of the exercise since T-24, popularly known as 'Ustaad', was already half way towards Udaipur zoo.
Sources said Rinwa had requested Rajya Sabha MP VP Singh Badnore to head the committee. Badnore had reportedly recommended conservationists Valmik Thapar and Rajpal Singh Shekhawat as other members.
According to sources, some hoteliers lobbied for the shifting to Udaipur as they feared that the presence of T24, which had its territory around Ranthambhore Park gate, could hamper their business by scaring away the tourists.
"Hoteliers at Ranthambhore were divided. Majority was in favour of keeping the tiger at the park as it was the most sighted one," said a wildlife expert. He added that there was a dispute among the forest staff about the identity of the tiger that killed the forest guard. "Forest officials were confused between T72 and T24," the expert said and added, "However, a handful of lobbyists supporting T24's shifting were more powerful and succeeded in their design."
Insiders said experts had suggested to chief minister Vasundhara Raje that even if T24 was attacking humans, it could be shifted to the Sariska reserve or Mukundra, a new forest zone adjacent to Ranthambore identified for tiger reserve expansion.
"Shifting was absolutely out of the blue," said the expert. He said that even forest officials wanted to verify that T24 was habitually attacking humans before shifting it. "There have been instances of T24 attacking humans and there were indications that he had no fear of the humans anymore," he added. Experts say carnivores have a natural tendency to fear humans. "But you can't say that T24 was a man-eater as it never chased humans," the expert said.
Congress MLA from Kumher, Vishvendra Singh, cites the example of T7, which was shifted to Sariska from Ranthambhore after it attacked a few humans, including forest ranger Daulat Singh. "T7 is now happily settled as ST6 at Sariska. Why should there be different treatment for similar incident?" Singh said and added that he sighted T7 thrice at Bharatpur, where it had strayed in 2010. "It never attacked anybody at Bharatpur," he said.
Rinwa said the formation of the committee was subject to the approval from the CM. "Once Madam (Raje) approves, the committee will be formed and if there is a positive report, the tiger will be brought back to the wild," the minister said.
He said that Kumbhalgarh and Mukundra forests have also been identified for expansion as tiger reserves, where T24 could be shifted if experts so recommended. "We had to shift the tiger to zoo as we realised there was fear to human lives. However, tiger sighting is a major tourist attraction in Rajasthan and we are not averse to tigers in the wild," Rinwa said.
Thapar supports T24's caging, saying: "In my 40 years of experience of Ranthambhore tigers, T24 is the most dangerous one. He killed four people including two forest guards and two locals. The forest department and the government of Rajasthan have done a successful job in relocating a man-killing and eating tiger," said Thapar.