Tiger escapes from cage. It’s uncertain what it will do nextNational park officials and experts concur that it is unlikely to attack local residents or cattle soon as it is deep inside the sanctuary but the possibility cannot be ruled out.
Just days after its capture in Bardiya, where it had been causing havoc lately, the male tiger made a dramatic escape from Banke National Park, leaving authorities uncertain of its actions.
The male tiger was captured last week from Khata Corridor, an important biological corridor that connects Bardiya National Park with the Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in India.
A team of wildlife technicians and experts from the Department of National Park, National Trust for Nature Conservation, and the Divisional Forest Office, Bardiya, along with Nepal Army personnel, had been able to capture two problem-causing tigers from Geruwa and Khata areas of Bardiya, on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The tiger captured and evicted from the Khata area last Thursday was transferred to a tiger holding centre, a rescue facility of Banke National Park that adjoins Bardiya National Park.
“We have been told that the tiger which was captured from the Khata area has escaped from the cage,” Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, chief conservation officer at Bardia National Park, told the Post.
“After recent incidents of attacking people and killing livestock in the area, we had placed a camera trap. Since the tiger was frequently recorded on the camera, we had targeted that particular male tiger and relocated it.”
However, on Tuesday morning, the tiger made a valiant escape from the iron cage at Khairi Post of the park, leaving park officials and wildlife authorities anticipating its next move.
Shyam Shah, chief conservation officer at the Banke National Park, says chances of the tiger attacking locals or cattle in Banke are slim.
“The cage from where it escaped was placed in the core area of the park. The tiger has marched deep inside the national park. Since there are no human settlements and movements [in the middle], any negative interactions between locals and the tiger are unlikely,” Shah told the Post. “The tiger had attacked locals in Bardiya forests where they had come face-to-face with it.”
In Bardiya, tigers have already killed nine people in different parts of the district, causing massive havoc and fear among locals this fiscal year. Three deaths have been recorded in March alone.
Dalli Rawat, 62, of Mohnapur, Thakurbaba Municipality, was the latest victim of tiger attack in Bardiya. She was killed on Tuesday when she had entered deep inside the protected area in search of fiddlehead ferns.
Most incidents of tiger attacks have taken place along the Khata Corridor, where at least six deaths this fiscal year have been reported from the area, according to officials.
The two tigers, including the one that made the escape, were suspected to have taken the lives of some seven to eight persons and devoured dozens of livestock before their capture, according to the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
Despite their suspected involvement in such attacks, park officials from Bardiya and Banke believe that the tiger is most likely to remain inside the protected area.
“The tiger will slowly adapt to the new habitat,” said Shah. “It has been walking towards the north, whereas the buffer zone is on the southern side. Nearby human settlements are far. Therefore, there is unlikely that it will attack locals or cattle.”
Shrestha, the chief warden of Bardiya National Park, also assumes that the probability of any tragic incident is unlikely but if the tiger causes any trouble again it needs to be managed.
“As per its nature, the tiger has returned to its own habitat into the wilderness,” said Shrestha. “Since it has already attacked people and livestock, it might change its behaviour. But if it wanders to human settlements, then it could be captured again.”
According to Shrestha, Banke officials have been tracking the pugmark of the tiger for its movement.
“But the onus lies on the locals. While we can’t change wild animals’ behaviour, people should change their behaviours for minimising such losses as tiger attacks have taken place only in forests,” said Shrestha. “With three tigers captured, such incidents are unlikely to take place in Bardiya, but we are still monitoring tigers at several places.”
Following the escape, Banke Park has swung into action for monitoring the tiger. Park authorities have alerted local residents riding two-wheelers along the East-West Highway that traverses via the protected area to travel only in groups and warned people not to go to the forest area.
According to Rabin Kadariya, a wildlife expert who was also part of the team that captured the tiger, the animal was not radio-collared, making it difficult to track its movement.
“But there is nothing to panic about as of now. It will only come out if it cannot adapt to the new habitat,” said Kadariya, project in-charge at Bardia Conservation Programme under the National Trust for Nature Conservation.
“In the Khata area, villages were nearby. Although it was not confirmed that the same tiger had killed people, the tiger used to be frequently sighted at human settlements. Therefore, it had to be evicted.”
This is not the first time, however, that a tiger has escaped from the rescue facility. In 2014, a tiger captured from the Triveni area of Chitwan National Park broke free from a cage built at Kasara, the park’s headquarters. During its escape, the tiger had also killed Hari Chandra Bot, who worked for the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre.
According to Baburam Lamichhane, a wildlife researcher, the tiger making an easy escape is unfortunate.
“The tiger in Chitwan had climbed the tree inside the cage and jumped out of the cage that was open above. Later, the cell was covered from above with nets,” said Lamichhane, chief of the Biodiversity Conservation Centre, Sauraha, under the Nature Conservation Trust.
“This is not unusual but should be considered a mistake too. In Banke’s case, it seems we are not even serious about such confinement facilities. As such set-ups are mostly built on tender, no one gauged the strength of the iron rods, which proved inefficient to hold the tiger under control.”
Lamichhane, who has conducted several researches on tigers, feels that the chances of the same tiger attacking locals would be less but it cannot be ruled out entirely.
“At a new place, it might not go near human settlements. Also, the area has fewer tigers and the fewer interactions with other tigers could force the tiger to move on,” said Lamichhane. “Also, the psychological factor that it was already captured and relocated for attacking people and cattle might deter it from doing the same in Banke. It could stay in its new territory.”
However, what could force the tiger to wander into nearby human settlements once again is the lower availability of prey inside the Banke National Park. The park and its adjoining forests are home to a total of 21 tigers as per the latest count of 2018.
The same census, which also measured the available prey base in protected areas sheltering tigers, showed that Banke National Park has the lowest prey presence among other tiger-bearing parks. The prey base in Banke had shrunk to 8.1 animals per square km from 10.27per square km since the 2013 census.
“The park having the lowest prey availability can force tigers to come out. Although attacking people is more accidental, the tiger can still attack livestock, fuelling negative interaction with locals,” said Lamichhane.