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‘Avni’s cub’ succumbs to injuries after territorial clash

Within a couple of days after her release, she clashed with another tigress, believed to be the resident of the area, and received injuries to her front limb and chest.

A three-year-old tigress, better known as ‘cub of Avni’, succumbed to her injuries on Saturday, days after a territorial clash with another tigress.

The tigress, PTRF_84, was injured shortly after being released into the wild from an enclosure in Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR). She was captured in December 2018 from Pandharkawada in Yavatmal district after her mother T1, popularly known as Avni, was shot dead in November that year after being declared man-eater. She was then brought to Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Nagpur district, where she was kept in a 5.44 hectare enclosure for “rewilding”.

After two years of rewilding, in which she was trained to hunt her natural prey, the authorities had decided to release her into the wild.

Within a couple of days after her release, she clashed with another tigress, believed to be the resident of the area, and received injuries to her front limb and chest.

“She was being treated inside a treatment cage in the enclosure at Titralmangi and was being monitored and treated daily by the veterinary officers. On Saturday evening it was found that her health was deteriorating. Veterinary team advised to shift her to Gorewada Rescue Centre in Nagpur. Immediately preparations were made. She, however, succumbed to her injuries around 10 PM. The veterinary team tried it’s best to provide emergency treatment,” a press note issued by PTR Field Director Ravikiran Govekar said.

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Govekar told The Indian Express, “the injuries didn’t seem fatal but probably she had internal injuries, which will be confirmed after post-mortem.”

Incidentally, the tigress had injured her paw last December while in the enclosure. Authorities had said it could be due to a skirmish with another tiger which may have charged at her from outside the enclosure. There is speculation that the same tigress was involved in the latest territorial clash.

When the Forest Department authorities had decided to release the tigress into the wild, after consulting with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), they had explored three areas— Gadchiroli, Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) and PTR. After initially leaning towards NNTR due to its sparse tiger population, they had settled upon PTR for its better prey base and tigress’ familiarity with the area.

Another suggestion was to release her into the Dnyanganga Wildlife Sanctuary in Buldana district, where another Pandharkawada tiger, Walker, had made its home after a record-breaking journey of over 3,000 km. This would have ensured a mate for Walker and eliminated the prospect of territorial clash since Walker was the first ever tiger to walk into Dnyanganga.

The authorities, however, decided against it since both Walker and the tigress belonged to the same gene pool of Pandharkawada. They also wanted to prevent inbreeding among their progeny because Dynanganga in its present form is like an island.

Asked if NNTR or Dnyanganga could have better option to choose as they had lesser probability of a territorial clash, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Nitin Kakodkar said, “We had deliberated all the options threadbare and had finally settled for PTR as it provided ample preybase and much better monitoring as the staff had been taking care of the tigress for over two years.”

Asked if the experience could leave a negative impact on any rewilding experiment in the future, Kakodkar said, “I don’t think so. This is a learning process and we have to always make amends to make it more foolproof in future. Else, every captured tiger would end up in a cage or in safaris.”

Meanwhile, Walker, that had stayed on in Dnyanganga for over a year after ceaselessly wandering over several districts, has not been spotted for about a month and a half.

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