A Royal Bengal tigress which has outsmarted some of the best feline experts in the country and has made the Assam Forest Department cough up a whopping amount of money is still giving wildlife experts and Forest Department officials’ sleepless nights.
A report published in the The Hindu stated that the Royal Bengal tigress, F03, which strayed out of north-central Assam’s Orang National Park 16 months ago, had set off one of the biggest operations in the State to trap the big cat. But, she has virtually fallen off the radar since killing a pig in Darrang district’s Borgora Tea Estate on December 4 last year.
The report further stated that her last kill was about 3 km south-west of Borobazar’s Simlagui in the adjoining Udalguri district where she had preyed on a cow to trigger a “wild cat chase”. The 78.81 sq km Orang, about 110 km north-east of Guwahati, is a tiger reserve as well as a prime one-horned rhino habitat.
“F03’s last few kills – all pigs – were in that direction, indicating she might have returned to Orang from where she had strayed out. The park is another 3 km beyond the tea estate and across the river Dhansiri,” Madhurjya K. Sarma, Udalguri’s Divisional Forest Officer said on Sunday.
F03’s first kill outside Orang was on November 11, 2017. Her strike did not cause a flutter in the area dominated by the Bodo community. Officials attributed this to an age-old belief that the big cats are occasional guests nature sends for satisfying hunger.
A year later, around the same time Avni the tigress was gunned down in Maharashtra and angry villagers crushed an alleged man-eater under a tractor in Uttar Pradesh. “All we can say is that there is no sign of the tigress. It may have re-entered Orang or gone elsewhere; it is difficult to be sure,” Divisional Forest Officer of Mangaldoi Division Ramesh K Gogoi said.
Forest officials do not rule out the possibility of the tigress having crossed the Brahmaputra on the southern edge of Orang and taken refuge in Kaziranga National Park on the other bank. The operation to catch F03 involved an assembly line of wildlife officials, veterinarians, experts and activists from across the country. The cost of the operation has not been counted.
“From live goats to tree-top surveillance, we tried everything to catch F03. But, she was always a step ahead of us. Maybe, she was destined not to be caught except in camera-traps,” the forest officer said.