Relocation of Tiger T24, Ustad from Ranthambore National Park

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pccf.raj.forest@rajasthan.gov.in

dcf.it.forest@rajasthan.gov.in

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Dear Sirs

Relocation of Tiger T24, Ustad from Ranthambore National Park

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I am writing with regarding to the relocation of the Tiger T24 and incarcerated in a zoo without the permission of the NTCA.

Could you please read the following information and look forward to your comments.

1. Location of attack – Was the attack inside the tiger reserve, or outside?

Valmik Thapar on NDTV, with 40 years of experience as a camerman but has no qualification to be a Tiger expert, declared that this attack on May 8, 2015

was “outside the park, on the main road leading to the Ganesh temple”. This seems to be a lie, trying to indicate that Ustad can be a threat to pilgrims

using the main road, and thereby whip up local support. Here, it is interesting to note that RTR is one of the parks with virtually NO buffer zone in certain

areas, as it is encircled by resorts and villages. Resorts have acquired such land and deprived the reserve of buffer zones.

2. Was the guard on foot patrol duty? Why was he where a tiger was sitting?

The unfortunate victim, Rampal, was not allotted foot patrol duty. He was supposed to be manning the gate, entering the details of vehicles going into the

park. Apparently, he let his wife go inside the park to collect firewood/fodder, and it was she who reportedly encountered the tiger at close quarters. When she ran back to report this to Rampal, he seems to have abandoned his post to seek out the tiger. Obviously, it is rather common knowledge that a tiger could be seen anywhere in the park – so why did Rampal go to check? Some say that it is a regular practice in RTR for guards to make a quick buck by showing off tigers to visitors – they call jeep drivers on their cellphones to tip them off, and get tipped in return. Did Rampal lose his life in the bargain? Other guards too went with him, but they seem to have split up in locating the tiger, a cardinal error – foot patrols are always in groups for this reason. But this was not a foot patrol!

3. Eyewitness Accounts

It was initially reported that the tiger involved in the incident was Sultan, or T72. One of the forest guards with whom Rampal ha set out, Hukumchand, reported this (and even Anish Andheria of Sanctuary Asia reported this, after speaking to his sources). The testimony seems to have been changed later, perhaps under duress? Only Hukumchand knows!

4. Post-incident response

Local experts spend more than an hour after the incident, Ustad is seen visiting the site of the attack, sniffing the area. Any tiger would sense the scent of an attack, and Ustad would naturally investigate an incident in his territory. He could’ve even had blood on his paws, from walking through the scene of the attack. It is well known that Sultan, T72, also regularly inhabits the same territory. The local experts who witnessed Ustad’s activities were a hotelier/naturalist and a Wildlife biologist working for an NGO, who seemed to have jumped onto Forest Dept. vehicles heading towards the site. Why were these ‘non-officials’ present on an official mission? And did they need to broadcast their views on social media, when the conclusions of any official mission can only be reached after much study?Ustad was implicated in previous human deaths (the last one in 2012), but continued to remain in the park – the forest dept., local villages and pilgrims, guides and drivers – all directly affected parties – chose not to blame Ustad, and did not agitate/riot/demonstrate. Obviously, these deaths were considered as accidental attacks, not deliberate, as all three victims had ventured on foot inside the reserve, ignoring safety norms. The first two were illegal tree cutters, the last a forester.It seems easy for them to have put two and two together here – a known offender lurking around the site of a killing, and based on this purely CIRCUMSTANTIAL evidence, is branded the killer.

5. Man-eater???

Rampal had injuries consistent with a tiger grabbing him by the neck. His body was not eaten! The tiger seems to have attacked reactively, and then dropped the body and vanished. Not man-eating behavior at all! A true man-eater would have tried to drag the body deeper into the forest for an undisturbed meal. Even the NTCA guidelines mention that if a tiger kills a human accidentally, the tiger may even eat some parts of the body, but this in itself does not make him a man-eater.To declare a tiger as a man-eater needs due process to be followed – i.e. constitute an expert committee, monitor the cat’s movements, track or radio-collar the tiger, document its behavior, etc. No such investigation for Ustad!

6. Vested interests

What could be the vested interests?

a. Ustad is older, and appears infrequently in front of tourists. His ‘tourism’ value is down. However, he is occupying prime property in the reserve. Better to have Sultan in his territory – Sultan is a very young, tourist –friendly tiger. But has not been seen since April.

b. They tried to blame Sultan but that is another lie as Sultan is missing. Some of these experts have voiced the opinion that “there are too many male tigers in the park”. (NTCA would never approve moving tigers to balance gender-inequalities). Removing Ustad reduces that number by three, as both his cubs are male too. So it looks like killing three birds with one stone. And since the cubs are unnamed, nobody will create a ruckus when they disappear, as they are sure to be killed by a rival male. And apart from Sultan (if still alive), there are apparently two other males which may try to take over Ustad’s territory.

d. It is said that there were commercial interests too in keeping Ustad in Sajjangarh – he would be a major tourist attraction, and can boost the business of the hotel industry in the area (some Ranthambore hotel owners are allegedly planning a luxury resort in the area).

Yours

rajforest.nic.in

RAJFOREST.NIC.IN
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Spotted Owlet

Spotted Owlet
Calls – Athene brama

Introduction: The Spotted Owlet is a small, white-spotted greyish-brown to brown owl with a round head, yellow eyes and prominent white eyebrows.

[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]

Description: [Note: following description is for raceindica, nominate race brama is generally darker and smaller] The facial disc is creamy-buff with brown concentric lines. The forehead and lores are white to pale buffy. Eyebrows are white and curved. Eyes are pale to deep golden-yellow. The sides of the face are dark, contrasting with white rear edges. The cere is dusky green or greenish brown, the bill being greenish-horn, but sometimes darker, and somtimes more yellow on the upper ridge. The crown, sides of the head, and upperparts are earth-brown to greyish or rufescent, marked with small white spots. The nape has very large white spots, forming a collar, while the back has large white spots, and the scapulars have broad white edges. The chin, throat, and front and sides of the neck are white, with a dark brown band below this. The remainder of the underparts are whitish, spotted and mottled with brown, sometimes with broken bars.
The wings are spotted and banded white, and the tail has narrow white bars.
The tarsi is feathered, and the toes bristled and dirty yellowish. Claws are dark horn, and soles yellowish.

Size: Length 19-21cm. Wing length 143-171mm. Tail length 65-93mm. Weight 110-114g. females usually larger than males.

Habits: Generally crepuscular and nocturnal, but sometimes seen by day. Roosts by day in tree hole or on a branch. May roost in pairs or small groups. Flight is deeply undulating, consisting of a few rapid flaps followed by a glide with wings pressed to the body.

Voice: A harsh screeching chirurrr-chirurrr-chirurrr…followed by, or alternating with cheevak, cheevak, cheevak and a variety of other screeches and chuckles.

Hunting & Food: Mainly preys upon beetles, moths and other insects. Also takes earthworms, lizards, mice and small birds. Usually hunts from a perch, pouncing on prey, but occasionally takes insects in flight. Often uses street lamps as hunting bases, hawking insects attracted to the lights.

Breeding: Northern races breed from February to April, while Southern races breed from November to March. Nests are in natural tree hollows, or in holes and cavaties in human dwellings. May also nest in cavities in the sides of ravines and earth cliffs when suitable trees are scarce. The nest is sometimes liked with grass and feathers.
3-5, sometimes 5 white, roundish oval eggs are laid (average 32.2 x 27.1mm), with incubation begining with the first egg. This causes the young to hatch asynchronously, resulting in a considerable size difference within the brood.

Habitat: Open or semi-open country, including semi-desert. Within and on outskirts of villages and cultivation, groves with old trees, and ruins. This species avoids thick forest. Lives from sea-level to about 1400m.

Distribution: Southern Asia, from Iran to Vietnam. Present on most of the Indian subcontinent (except Sri Lanka) and Southeast Asia, except peninsular Thailand and Malaysia.

Distribution of the Spotted Owlet Athene brama

Status: Generally common.

Original Description: Temminck, Coenraed Jacob & Laugier de Chartrouse, (Baron) Meiffren. 1821. Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d’oiseau pour servir de suite et de complément aux planches enluminées de Buffon, livraison 12, pl. 68.

Subspecies: A. b. brama, A. b. indica, A. b. mayri, A. b. albida, A. b. pulchra, A. b. ultra

Photo credit Manjot Singh
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