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Two tigers from the Deccan have left their pawprints in the record books by traversing the longest-known distances for tigers in the country. The young males, one starting from Maharashtra while the other from Telangana, are radio-collared for conservation purposes, and have completed a combined distance of at least 1,600 kilometres—and counting.
C1 is the identifier for the tiger in the lead. A resident of the Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, it ventured out of the protected habit in search of a new home. Covering 1,160 kilometres across Telangana and Maharashtra, it stealthily navigated six districts, human-dominated areas and electric fences without being spotted.
K7, the other youngling, is a cub of the tigress Falguna from Kagaznagar in Komaram Bheem, Telangana. Currently having completed at least 450 kilometres, it was first recorded beyond state boundaries in Maharashtra’s Pranhita Wildlife Sanctuary in September. Officials thought K7 would turn back after the monsoons, but it was seen in Gadchiroli a month later. Pushed out by a dominating male called A1, K7’s looking for fresh landscapes to be the new alpha. Its dispersal is a good indicator for genetically viable populations in the long run.
C1’s journey, however, may be a cry for help. Radio-collaring allows forest officials to track tiger corridors and their movement patterns; after studying the dispersal of ‘the Tipeshwar tiger’, authorities have come to the conclusion that the big cats there need more forest cover. Maharashtra’s tiger population saw a spike from 190 (2014) to 312 (2018), which means more land is required to accommodate the new entrants. Bilal Habib, a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India told TheTimes of India that C1’s movement towards the Melghat Tiger Reserve and the Satpuras shows the Deccan landscape’s functional connectivity for the animals.
While it makes for a fun story to root for these two big cats, C1 and K7’s unintentional records have opened up a dialogue on the need to expand wildlife conservation infrastructure at the state level. As other state governments step up on creating animal corridors and timely legislation, what’s in store for these two overachievers?
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