Scientists and tiger experts in the State are as excited as they are baffled, as the discovery may go to render the camera trap a reliable method to monitor tigers. The finding, resulting from three years of study, began with the camera trapping a four-month-old cub that was photographed along with his sister and mother for the first time at Bhadra in April 2006.In October 2006, a wildlife photographer captured it on camera while it was trying to corner a gaur in the company of another tiger.
The bombshell came in May 2008, when the cub, now a two-year-old, was first pictured at the Dandeli tiger reserve. Yet again in 2009, a camera trap in Dandeli photographed it. The picture was sufficient proof of the migrant tiger having set up its territory over there – 270 km from its native home range.
How did the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) establish that the tiger was from Bhadra?
It is well established that the stripes of the tiger, like human fingerprints, are unique to each animal.
Tigers photographed by camera traps are classified by their stripes for monitoring purposes. The cameras are placed at crucial places where the animal movement is frequent. The traveller-tiger is among 11 individuals trapped by camera at Bhadra, and after it was photographed again at Dandeli, was identified by its stripes. The WCS has created a database of individual photographed tigers.
Scientists say that Indian tigers, governed by the availability of prey, do not migrate for a long distance, unlike the Siberian tiger which tend to travel up 500 kilometres in search of prey.
WCS India director Dr Ravi Chellam said the home range of tiger was believed to be 60 sq km. “This has opened avenues of study, because there is human habitat en route, and it (tiger) could not have travelled as the crow flies,” he said.