Forest department HQ moves to ground zero to save tigress Avni (T1)'s cubs

Nov 30, 2018, 07:54 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

In a bid to counter the growing criticism, top officials trade the cool confines of their office for the rough terrain of Pandharkawda

Forest department HQ moves to ground zero to save tigress Avni (T1)'s cubs
The tent in Pandharkawda where forest officials have set up base

With the operation to rescue tigress T1's cubs still in progress, a 20x20 feet tent in Pandharkawda, Yavatmal, has become the head office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), A K Misra. Also chief wildlife warden of Maharashtra, Misra usually sits at the Vanbhavan office in Nagpur. But, with the operation not over yet, he has set up camp in a section of Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra area in Pandharkawda.

Misra and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF) Sunil Limaye have made Pandharkawda their base. A highly-placed source in the forest department said, "The operation is one of the most important ones we have undertaken... Hence, they have shifted base. Between September 21 and October 13, both PCCF and APCCF were present in Pandharkawda; besides monitoring the operation, they did their day-to-day office work there as well.

Senior forest department officials have been monitoring the situation from the camp set up at Pandharkawda
Senior forest department officials have been monitoring the situation from the camp set up at Pandharkawda

"There have been many people who have been criticising the PCCF and the forest department over the issue of T1 and her cubs, but very few are aware how hard both senior officers have been working to monitor the situation and complete daily work to ensure there is no backlog. The PCCF and APCCF have started taking turns to stay at the camp three days a week, so that one of them is always available at the headquarters."

Pandharkawda is around 150 km away from Nagpur. There is some good news for wildlife lovers who have been worried about T1's cubs - it has come to light that both of them successfully killed cattle on Wednesday.

Cubs on the hunt
Confirming the news, a forest department official said, "Yesterday, one of the villagers came to us and informed us that his cattle was killed by the cubs. Our team reached the spot and installed camera traps on the kill. And now, we have got images of the cubs, who can be seen feeding on the kill." In a meeting between the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), FDCM, Wildlife Institute of India, and forest department officials on November 17, the NTCA had asked the forest department to analyse tiger signs data (direct and indirect evidence, such as scat, camera trap images and pugmarks) on a day-to-day basis.

Forest Department Sets Up Cages To Trap Tigress Avni (T1)'S Cubs

The plan
"As per the information that has come to light because of the camera traps and direct and indirect evidence, we are closely monitoring the cubs' movement and are making sure the teams don't enter the area where the little ones are present to avoid disturbance. At present, the cubs are moving in the area surrounding Anji dam; we want them to get localised," said a forest department official.

"The good thing is that after killing four goats in the last eight to nine days, they killed cattle on Thursday and fed themselves. Two cages have been set up to capture the cubs safely, and baits, too, have been tied at strategic locations." Once the cubs get completely localised, the forest department will take the decision to tranquillise them with the help of expert veterinarians. Deputy Conservator of Forests K M Abharna is heading the operation.

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