Mumbai: Are tigers back in cages at Sanjay Gandhi National Park?

Some visitors have alleged that they are not being seen in the tiger safari but in secondary cages

Was the tiger released from captivity into the tiger safari at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), for ambassador Amitabh Bachchan recently, only to be caged again? The question has risen as visitors to the park have alleged that tigers have once again been kept in the secondary cages and not released in the safari.

Visitors could not see a tiger in the safari like this. File pic
Visitors could not see a tiger in the safari like this. File pic

Many people and Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) members in the month of January had also raised the same issue and had written a letter to the SGNP Director requesting him that like lions, tigers should be released in the tiger safari. On Wednesday afternoon, visitors who went to SGNP for the tiger and lion safaris did not see a tiger and were angry to see the animals in secondary (large enclosures) cages.

“I have been a regular visitor to the park and I have observed that the tigers have been kept in the secondary cages from over two months and have not been released in the safari. The lion safari is also not on the proper track. I was completely disappointed as I could not see a tiger in the safari but saw them in secondary cages,” alleged Shilpa Terkar, a visitor. Part of the lion safari is closed due to maintenance work and visitors can go only to a small area.

Another visitor, Shraddha Katke alleged, “We are paying our hard earned money to see the tigers. We wanted to see a tiger in the safari but we were shown two tigers in secondary cages which was disappointing.”

“When one buys a ticket that person assumes she or he will get a chance to see a tiger roaming in a jungle, similar to the pictures posted by tiger ambassador Amitabh Bachchan few months back. But we did not find a single tiger in the safari. We saw a tiger in the secondary cage, and I think that the authorities should stop fooling people, as seeing them in secondary cages gives the visitors an impression of seeing the animal in a zoo,” said another visitor.

Earlier this year members of NGO PAWS had taken up the issue and met then Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests - Western Region Suresh Thorat and SGNP Director Vikas Gupta and requested them to release the tigers in the safari.

The park authorities had then told them that the tigers were kept in secondary cages because maintenance work was in progress and after completion, the tigers would be released in the safari. However, some tigers can still be seen in the secondary cages. Shailesh Deore, superintendent of the tiger and lion safaris at SGNP, however, claimed that one tiger was released in the safari on a daily basis.

“It is true that some tigers have been kept in the secondary cages but we also release one tiger in the safari everyday during morning and evening hours. There are chances that tourists might not have been able to see a tiger during the safari, but that might be because it could be resting somewhere. We are working on a plan so that people who come for the safari get to see a tiger for sure, and are not disappointed,” he said.

Tiger count
At present there are six tigers in SGNP of which five are royal Bengal tigers and one is a white Bengal tiger. The per ticket cost of the safari at SGNP is Rs 53 and that for a child is Rs 21.

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