Agra: The tiger, now named Mohan, eluded wildlife trackers from three states, two days after it was spotted in Mathura district in Uttar Pradesh where it attacked half a dozen people. Officials believe it may be close to the Rajasthan border.
Forest officials from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, the Ranthambore National Park, Dehradun`s Wild Life Institute and Wild Life SOS have been camping on the Agra-Mathura border to trap the tiger, which is believed to have strayed away from its natural habitat. They are worried about the safety of the big cat.
Zonal wildlife conservator R.P. Bharti told IANS: "Most likely the tiger has crossed into Rajasthan or would do so by evening. Pug marks have been detected in that direction. My worry for the moment is he should be safe.
"Right now he seems to be covering four to five kilometres a day, whereas he should be moving at 15 to 16 km daily. This makes me wonder if he is hurt or limping. If the tiger can reach Bharatpur`s bird sanctuary it would be better as he would be assured of feed and there are many hiding points in that area. So he would be safer."
Forest guards from the Bharatpur bird sanctuary and wildlife experts from Jaipur and Dholpur are part of the big hunt. The tiger appears to have eluded all and may be hiding in some fields, forest officials say.
N.K. Janoo, divisional forest officer of Agra, told IANS: "The last pug marks our tracking team came across were in village Shahzadpur, on the tri-junction of Bharatpur, Mathura and Agra districts. It`s a very intelligent animal, around four years old, and refuses to take the bait.
"It`s a matter of great concern how this animal strayed into this area. This could have been due to injury, destruction of its natural habitat which causes them to move to fringe areas bordering human settlement, or shrinkage of prey based territory. These big cats are territorial animals, so if they move out there has to be a reason."
Janoo said the tiger straying away from the forest area was a danger signal, a definite fallout of the man-animal conflict. "Foliage and the population of smaller animals like deer is declining. This is disturbing the balance."
The tracking teams from Agra and Mathura have not yet returned. But once the tiger moves into Rajasthan via the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, most probably by Thursday night, they would call off the operation, an official said.
India is home to one of the largest tiger populations in the world but its numbers have declined sharply - now believed to be less that 1,500.