Be careful on relocating tigers: Valmik Thapar

Kolkata: Tiger expert Valmik Thapar has expressed concern on relocating the Royal Bengal tigers in the Sunderbans mangrove of West Bengal and "dumping" them elsewhere in the forest, a process, he said, traumatises the big cats.

"The problem in Sunderbans which needs to be addressed by wildlife scientists is that tigers get caught and then taken in boats in the forest department and dumped back in the forests. You should be very careful where you dump tigers," Thapar said during a special audio-video (AV) presentation at the Kolkata Literary Meet here Monday.

"One of the biggest problems with relocating tigers and starting new populations is where you take the tiger from and where you send it," he said. The Sunderbans forest is the largest mangrove forest in the world and is home to the famed but elusive Royal Bengal tiger. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It covers approximately 10,000 sq. km of which 60 percent is in Bangladesh, with the remaining in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Thapar was responding to questions by eager children on the fate of relocated tigers. Answering with an example, Thapar said: "Like in Ranthambhore, the authorities took a big male tiger from Ranthambhore to Sariskaa when they took it, a big male tiger came in its place and killed all the cubs which the big male had had with all the other females, to father his own." "So when you take a tiger out of his clan, you lose ten cubs. You don't take the big guy out. You take the one that is growing up and you have to do this with the help non-governmental experts because this wisdom is not vested normally in the bureaucracy," said Thapar.

Through vibrant AVs of tigers in action in the wild, Thapar linked the animal's origins with Indian history and also with the feminine form. Thapar, who has authored many books, with thousands of pictures and several documentaries and films to his credit, was appointed a member of the Tiger Task Force in 2005. Talking about the scenario in Bengal, Thapar, who established the Ranthambhore Foundation in 1987, said in Sunderbans, a lot of tigers have been "dumped from here to there". "I don't know what will happen. Tigers also get traumatized. You have to be really careful. After all, they are the pride of Bengal," he said.