News: The recent attempt of Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) to reintroduce into the wild tiger cub named Mangala after rearing it in ‘captivity’ has once again brought the controversial concept of ‘re-wilding’ of abandoned or injured animals under the lens.
What is ‘Re-Wilding’?
- As per the Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, there are three ways to deal with orphaned or abandoned tiger cubs.
- The first is to make an effort to reunite the abandoned cubs with their mother.
- Second, if a reunion of the cub with its mother is not possible, then shift the cub to a suitable zoo.
- Third, reintroduction of the cub into the wild after a certain time when it appears that the cub is capable of surviving in the wild independently.
- This is what is known as ‘re-wilding.
- NTCA stresses that the tiger cub should be reared in an in-situ enclosure for a minimum of two years, and during this time, each cub should have a successful record of at least 50 ‘kills’.
- Within the enclosure, the persons responsible for handling cubs must approach them by putting a tiger mask along with workday clothes of a tiger stripe pattern smeared with tiger urine and faeces.
- Various conditions must be complied with at the time of releasing the cub in the wild.
- The tiger cubs should be in prime health, and of dispersing age (three/four years).
- There should be no abnormality/incapacitation.
- The tiger conservationist Billy Arjan Singh was credited with the re-introduction of re-welding the Dudhwa forest area in the 1970s.
- The attempt, however, ran into controversy after several incidents of the killing of humans were reported.
- The re-wilding in Panna Tiger Reserve of two abandoned tigress cubs that were brought up at Kanha Tiger Reserve is considered to be a success in tiger conservation.
- There are 50-50 chances of success and failure of re-wilding of hand-reared carnivores in the wild.
- Conservationists, however, maintain that the chances of success are far less than that — less than even 1 per cent. Tigers in India are already occurring at naturally attainable densities.
- Almost all translocations of captive-raised tigers have failed so far, with only rare successes such as in Panna after a tiger extinction, and some re-introductions in Russia into empty habitats with plenty of prey.
- The real need is to protect more habitat strictly so that the prey densities rise and more tigers can thrive.
- Putting individual hand-reared tigers into the wild cannot certainly be called re-wilding says some wildlife activists.