10-month chase ends as ‘problem tiger’ of Rajura is finally caught

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Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur | October 27, 2020 11:30:35 pm

Rajura tiger, maharashtra tigers, latest news, maharashtra news, indian expressThe tiger was shifted to the Forest department's Transit Treatment Centre facility at Chandrapur (Representational Image)

THE ‘problem tiger’ of Rajura, RT1, which has killed eight persons and injured three in Chandrapur district in the last 20 months, has finally been caught.

Confirming the capture, Chandrapur Chief Conservator of Forest N R Praveen said, “The tiger, RT1, has been caught. A special trap was designed below a railway bridge in compartment number 179 (in Rajura forest). The tiger got trapped in it at 3.10 pm. Immediately, a darting team was rushed to the spot, and the animal was tranquilised and put in a cage.”

With this, the grueling 10-month chase of the extremely elusive and clever tiger has come to an end. Over four tracking teams comprising two forest guards, 35 volunteers from 14 villages and four veterinarians, along with equipment such as CCTV cameras, night-vision cameras and trap cameras, were deployed over the last 10 months in efforts to catch the tiger.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and state Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod have congratulated Forest department officials for the successful effort and for preventing further loss of human life.

Deputy Conservator of Forest Arvind Mundhe, who has been leading the operation on the ground since the past two months, said, “We had the tiger’s photo in the morning around 8 am. Later, in the afternoon, the Special Tiger Protection Force of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve had a direct sighting of the tiger and could even take a video. We could then guess which way it was headed. It predictably walked into the trap made below the railway bridge.”

Last week, the tiger was caught in a cage kept below a culvert, but managed to escape after squeezing out of the trap.

Mundhe, who supervised the operation till the end despite contracting Covid-19 earlier this month, said, “This time, we ensured that the door shut on the tiger as soon as it entered the trap… it (the door) got firmly stuck in the groove below.”

The Forest department had also laid traps at some other places to catch the tiger. The trap that finally worked was placed about 9 km from the earlier one, which the tiger had escaped from, and it was properly fortified.

The tiger was shifted to the Forest department’s Transit Treatment Centre facility at Chandrapur and it will be later shifted to Nagpur’s Gorewada Rescue Centre, said Mundhe.

Earlier this month, a tranquilising shot was fired at the tiger when it had come for a kill, but the animal managed to jump away to safety.

The animal had also been roaming a vast area, spread across the three ranges of Rajura, Virur and Kothari, making it very difficult to keep track of its movements.

“We had spread our teams along the entire Rajura range and had kept a close track of the tiger’s movements. This had ensured that the tiger didn’t leave the area and move to the adjoining Virur range. Simultaneously, we also prevented local villagers from entering the forest,” said Praveen.

The tiger, estimated to be about seven years old, had killed its first victim in January last year. The first order to capture it was issued 12 months later, in January this year. Since then, the order has been renewed three more times.

It killed its last victim, a villager from Khambada village, on October 7. Since then, the clamour to shoot the animal had been growing.

With TR1, the total number of tigers caught this year from the man-animal conflict zones of Vidarbha has gone up to seven. While one tigress each was caught from Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district and Gondia forest, the remaining have been caught from Chandrapur. district.

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