The Vidya Balan-starred film ‘Sherni’, released on Amazon Prime Video, has sparked a lot of interest about the complex relationship man and tiger share. Inspired by the 2018 Avni saga , the movie revolves around tigress Avni who was shot dead in the forest of Pandharkawada in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. The film shows how the forest department did tigress hunting that had been attacking humans. It is also believed the tigress had killed at least five people before being captured or shot dead. As shown in the film, Avni ends up getting killed by a private shooter hired by the forest department. In Maharashtra, just like in the movie, Avni’s tracking tested the limits of the department’s skills.
How do we track tigers and why?
Currently there are two major ways of tracking a tiger– camera traps, as shown in ‘Sherni’, and radio collars. GSM camera traps can also be used if you have proper internet connectivity. Tiger has this heightened ability to hide when under scanner. So tiger tracking becomes important not only for capture operations but also to understand its overall behavior. To track the tigers, radio collars were used (by tranquilising and putting the collar put around its neck) on tigers for long-term studies of their behaviour, feeding and movement patterns. With the help of highly advanced technology of radio telemetry, officials can track real-time information about its movement and hiding patterns.
Role of cameras in tracking tigers
Not all the tigers could be tranquilized and given a radio collar. So, in case of a non-collared tiger, wildlife managers have to be dependent on the traditional style of tracking tigers down such as tiger scats, pugmarks, scratch marks on trees, camera traps among others. The camera traps are being put at places where the tiger is most likely to pass. But apart from these places guarded by cameras, tigers keep moving to other areas where cameras may not be arranged. And then, only a few locations of the tiger can be tracked. The cameras are checked only after 2-12 hours. By the time the camera captures the location, the tiger had already moved to a different location by them, giving the officials only an idea about the areas where chances of finding it are higher.
Tigress Comes more in conflict with humans! Why?
With the help of a special monitoring programme, wildlife managers also dug out very important information about the tigress. According to it, tigress need more food than tigers when compared during time periods. And that is because the tigress has comparatively smaller territory to defend. So it moves up and down the area more vigorously, thereby spending more energy and requiring more food. This is true even when the tigress is not breeding. This is the main reason why this large proportion of female tigresses comes in conflict with humans. The food requirement of females goes up by about 24 per cent over males in human dominated landscapes.
The valuable lessons from the tiger-tracking that can be gathered is the safe corridors that these tigers choose to migrate. This will further in tiger conservation since migrations will not only help reduce the overload of tigers in one place but also ensure genetic varieties of tigers. So, tiger tracking helps identify such places where tigers hide themselves. Later on, wildlife managers fortify, to help these tigers move or migrate to other places. The Forest Department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) are now planning another long-term research programme on tiger monitoring and dispersal in Maharashtra which would also focus on covering little cubs.