Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Almost three months have passed since the country's most famed tiger 'Jai' went missing mysteriously.
Although, a massive search operation is underway in search of the 250-kilogram big cat, yet the hope for tracing the animal looks far away.
Named after Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan`s character in the hit 1975 film "Sholay", the tiger shot to nationwide fame three years ago after embarking on an epic hike through villages, rivers and perilously dangerous highways in successful pursuit of a mate.
A firm favourite with tourists and conservationists alike, the seven-year-old big cat was last seen at the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, where he usually lives, on April 18.
Wildlife officials in the western Indian state of Maharashtra launched a massive search operation, hoping to find the beloved animal by Friday -- International Tiger Day -- but admit they are clueless as to his fate.
"Whether he has moved to forest interiors or is with a new mate, no information is available as of yet," M.S Reddy, a tiger expert helping the search, told AFP.
Forestry rangers said they first become worried about Jai`s fate after his electronic collar stopped transmitting his location three months ago, while tourist sightings of the striped cat have dried up.
The state government has offered a reward of 50,000 rupees ($745) for information on Jai`s location, a small fortune for the hundreds of local villagers engaged in the hunt.
"He`s successfully fathered more than 20 cubs and has boosted the local economy by attracting wildlife enthusiasts," said Rohit Karoo, a conservationist helping co-ordinate the hunt.
"Losing such a majestic tiger would be a great loss for India."
Karoo said no stone was being left unturned in the bid to track Jai down in a search extending over several hundred kilometres.
(With AFP inputs)