After 1985, tiger spotted near Tapi district, forest officials on alert

According to Nandurbar range forest officials, two residents of Koknipada village spotted the tiger, the first since 1985, on July 22 in two separate incidents.

The rare sighting of a tiger in Koknipada village of Nandurbar district of Maharashtra, barely 30 km from Tapi district, has put forest officials of both Maharashtra and Gujarat on alert. Looking at the pug marks of the animal, while Maharashtra forest officials have confirmed that it was a tiger, grass follicles from the hillock where the tiger was spotted, have been sent to a laboratory in Hyderabad to identify the species, its age and sex.

According to Nandurbar range forest officials, two residents of Koknipada village spotted the tiger, the first since 1985, on July 22 in two separate incidents.

In the first incident, the tiger was spotted by Jaysingh Kokni, a resident of Koknipada village. On spotting the tiger, Kokni called for help. By the time his employees arrived, the tiger had fled.

After preliminary examination of the pug marks, Randive Ganesh, Assistant Conservator of Forest of Nandurbar range has said that they belong to a tiger. Ganesh and his team were able to trace the pug marks to a hillock where they spotted the tiger crouching under a rock.

Talking to The Indian Express Ganesh said, “We were just 16 m from the tiger. We were not carrying cameras or else we would have taken photos. We had to use fire crackers to drive the tiger away from human habitat.”

About the sightings in the village, Ganesh said, “We have been told that one Bhimsingh Kokni (38), of Koknipada village, on the other side of the hillock, saw the tiger. He was attacked by the animal and has sustained minor injuries. He was sent to Nandurbar civil hospital for treatment.”

He further said, “We have collected the samples of the grass follicles and taken impressions of pugmarks. The follicle samples were sent to the Centre for Cellular Molecular Biology laboratory in Hyderabad for a DNA test. We are still waiting for the report. The pugmarks were sent to Nagpur wildlife laboratory, which confirmed that it was a tiger.”

Nandurbar range Deputy Conservator of Forest S B Kewate said, “We have started patrolling the forest area in Nandurbar. We have also hired a drone camera to locate the tiger. Forest officials in Tapi, Narmada and Dangs have been put on alert as the tiger might enter their territory. Our officer Randive Ganesh and few others saw the tiger so we know for sure that it was a tiger.”

Koknipada village is around 30 km from Uchhal taluka of Tapi district, 60 km from Subir taluka in Dangs and 120 km from Narmada in Gujarat. A tiger can cover a distance of 30 km in a single journey. Therefore, it is possible for the animal to cross over to Gujarat, which is why officials in these district have been alerted.

A total of eight teams, divided in two groups with 46 officials are patrolling the area.

Forest officials believe that the tiger strayed away from Yawal sanctuary in Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, which has three tigers and tigresses, each.

“We have sought details from Yawal Wildlife Sanctuary on the number of tigers and tigresses,” ACF Ganesh said.

Tapi district divisional forest officer Anand Kumar said, “On the basis of the details given by Nandurbar forest department, we have alerted our officials in border areas to patrol the area round the clock and immediately inform higher authorities if either the pugmarks or the tiger itself are spotted. If the tiger enters our areas, our first preference would be try and prevent any kind of animal human conflict. The next step would be to protect the tiger. We are trying to generate awareness about the issue and have advised people in the villages bordering Maharashtra about the steps and precautions they should take if the animal is seen.”

According to official forest records, there have been no tigers in the forests of Gujarat since 1985.

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