3,000 tigers are left in their natural habitat all around the world and the numbers are dwindling steadily. Poaching is a serious issue that caused this dwindling and so did deforestation. However, the Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh, spread over 547 sq. kms, is a glowing example of how one Reserve struck gold with its tiger relocation program.
In 2009, a study showed that Panna had no tigers left, save for one male. This was a major blow considering the park had won a Best Maintained Park award just two years earlier. Enter Field Director R.S. Murthy and conservation biologist, Dr. R. Chundawat. These two individuals decided to restore Panna to its previous glory by finding the lone tiger a mate.
Two female tigers (T1 and T2) were relocated from Kanha and Bandhavgarh. It isn’t easy for a big cat to adjust to new surroundings and the last remaining male tiger disappeared as soon as the other two were brought in. Instead of accepting defeat, the Panna officials managed to secure another male from Pench (T3) and released him into the forest.
In less than a year, with the help of forest officials and villagers, the tigers of Panna mated. Both T1 and T2 gave birth to a litter of four cubs each in April and October 2010, respectively.
The success story didn’t just end there. Two orphan female cubs were reared in captivity and released in the wild to mingle with the male, T3 and this worked out great. One of the female tigers was spotted with her babies on February 14th, 2012 and Panna celebrates this annually as Tiger Orphan Day.
The success of Panna is put down to the coming together of forest officials and people who live there. It proves that a collective effort and well-informed locals can help protect even the most endangered of animal species in the world.