AHMEDABAD: The chance sighting of tiger by a teacher in Lunawada has sent the forest department into a tizzy, with officials combing the area for the last two days. They have now found hair and claw marks on tree bark in the vicinity of the sighting lending further credence to the claim that tigers have indeed returned to the state after 27 years.
Forest officials said that since Saturday evening, when the first news of tiger presence backed by photographic evidence was received, they launched an aggressive drive to verify the information. Besides pug marks and scat of big cats, the authorities have now found at least six hairs that have been sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology laboratory in Hyderabad and the wildlife institute of Dehradun.
The teacher, Mahesh Mahera, who first sighted the tiger crossing a road and disappearing into the wilderness near Boriya village in Lunawada taluka, , had captured photos of the on his mobile phone on February 9.
“We are waiting for confirmation from the laboratory. Moreover, we have also sent the scat for analysis. However, the hair appears to be hard and I feel it can be of a . We are waiting for final confirmation from the laboratory,” said R M Parmar the district conservator of forest from Mahisagar district. “I have taken photographs with the exact location along with the latitude and longitude of the spot where the hair and claw marks were found,” Parmar added.
Forest officials said that the photograph of the tiger sighting that has gone viral was clicked on the outskirts of Boriya village, while the droppings and hairs were also found in the same area. An officer said that claw marks were found on a tree less than 1km from the village.
The forest department will analyse the compensation paid for domestic animals killed by wild animals in Mahisagar and Lunawada area to find if big animals were killed or not. “A tiger would need at least one big kill in a gap of three days,” said a forest officer.
Did the feline come from Melghat?
Experts believe that the tiger photographed by teachers near Boriya may have come from Melghat in Maharashtra and had entered the state through the Madhya Pradesh border.
Y V Jhala, an expert on the big cats, said Melghat tiger sanctuary is the closest to the Gujarat border. The region links with the Satpura range, Pench National Park and Kanha Tiger Reserve.
Experts said the possibility of a lone tiger entering the state from Melghat could not be ruled out. It could have strayed away from the sanctuary and entered Gujarat. Since there is a natural wildlife movement corridor between Pench and Kanha with Melghat the tiger could have strayed to Gujarat from there.
Jhala said once the tiger is identified it would be clear from where the tiger had come. A forest official said that a lone tiger which was spotted in Jhabua in January 2018 could have entered Gujarat and kills made by it could have been misconstrued as that by a leopard.
A male tiger had travelled 250km over the past year, looking for a mate in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas, Ujjain, Dhar, and Jhabua districts. The three-year-old tiger was seen moving between Banswara in Rajasthan and Jhabua in 2018 January. Gujarat’s border lies west to that passage of the tiger, and the closest point on the border from the the Jhabua tiger’s passage is 30km.
WII officials said that after the January incident, the WII had installed CCTV cameras along the Gujarat border, but they could not find any traces of a tiger.
A forest officer said there was a possibility that the tiger could have entered the state even before the monitoring by WII began and may have been in Gujarat for more than 11 months.