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Tiger cubs born at Sariska raise hopes

May 30, 2010 15:11 IST

The birth of four cubs in Madhya Pradesh's Panna National Park under the government's tiger revival project has brought the Sariska sanctuary in Rajasthan in focus where "sibling factor" is said to have hit the breeding programme initiated two years ago.
Rajasthan wildlife officials have put the tiger translocation programme on the backburner as they await results of the DNA tests conducted to identify the genes of two female tigresses and a male tiger brought there two years ago.
"Various theories are doing the rounds. Since there was some fear that the same gene pool of the animals might be the
reason for delayed breeding we are awaiting the results of their DNA test being conducted before bringing in a new lot," a senior official said on the condition of anonymity. Their fear hinges on the fact that though the tiger and tigresses were shifted from Ranthambore to Sariska much before than Panna sanctuary and they have been seen frequently courting and mating, pregnancy was not happening.
The DNA tests of two tigers -- a male and a female -- which have been identified in Ranthambore to be shifted to Sariska
to take the total count to five are also awaited. However, conservationist and National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) member M K Ranjitsinh was of the view that tigers should be shifted at the earliest to Sariska to repopulate the endangered species.
He said "officials should not feel disappointed if breeding has not happened. May be the tiger is sexually inactive or the animals are not at ease during mating but since these all are conjectures more animals should be brought to ensure breeding." More the number of tigers, more will be the chances of breeding, he added.
Echoing similar views, an expert from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII)

said restocking of five big cats as proposed under tiger rehabilitation plan should happen at the earliest. Though he agreed that to avoid gene problem, DNA test was must before the animal is translocated, he also felt that it was not an easy affair and a delay would further hamper the initiative.
"It is very difficult to catch the strayed animal. For instance, the tigress that we have identified to be relocated
has moved to Kota range and hence approaching it is becoming very difficult," he added. According to him, "Sariska cannot be called a failure case as success depends on bringing two more animals. In total there should be two males and three females." 
The expert dismissed theories that human disturbance was the main cause for breeding failure.
Rajnithsinh too did not agree with wildlife activist Belinda Wrights' contention that anthropogenic pressure was hampering breeding among animals. "Disturbance cannot be a major factor. Animals do take some time to settle but despite disturbances they have been breeding in other reserves too. Sariska once had good number of predators despite a large number of villages in the core area," he said.
Wright has stressed on removing human pressures such as immediate relocation of villages from the park, regulation of
pilgrimages to Pandupole temple and closure of a highway passing through the sanctuary.The government initiated the tiger revival plan first in Sariska and then Panna after both parks lost all their big cats primarily to poaching.
The country has witnessed birth from translocated tigers for the first time in Panna and it is hoped that the plan's success could open more avenues for conservation of tigers in the country.

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