Chief conservator of forests and executive director of Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore, B P Ravi claims that installing a transponder on captured carnivores before letting them in their natural habitat has been proved successful.
Pointing out that the rescue and relocation of a tigress to Thrissur zoo from Wyanad sanctuary in Kerala has been highlighted and projected as forester’s folly, where a conservationist advocated use of radio collaring method to track and monitor rescued and released carnivores to avoid and minimise possible conflict, he has argued there should be multiple strategies, techniques and location specific approach with an eye on low cost techniques.
The tigress in question was brought to Mysore Zoo on November 23, 2012, at 4 pm and assistant director Dr Suresh filed the following report on the same day: “A wounded tigress aged approximately 4 years was rescued today from Nagarahole range by Dr Umashankar and was brought to Mysore Zoo in the evening at 4. There was a minor lacerated wound on the caudal aspect of the left forelimb and a small wound on the muzzle. Lot of ticks were present on the body. Since, the wound was a minor one, it was not treated.
An ecto-parasiticidal bath was given using Ridd (Amitraz). Medications namely injection Fortivir 500 mg I/M, injection Doramectin 3 ml S/C, injection Atropine Sulfate 2 ml S/C was administered. A transponder (a rice grain size microchip possessing unique identification number that can be read only by transponder reader) no 956000002161159 was also implanted on the left base of the tail. Soon the animal was sent back with the forest department staff to be released back from where it was caught.”
The transponder implanting method is in vogue for quiet some years and very useful for correct identification of animals in captivity. Mysore Zoo has adopted this method in the rescued carnivores too, before release after obtaining the permission from the competent authority.
Earlier also in a similar case on March 16, 2012, zoo vets had implanted the transponder no 956000002158327 in male leopard rescued from the Mysore forest division along with ‘V’ shape notch made on right ear pinna for easy visible identification and released the animal in the Bandipur forest area as per the instructions of the competent authority. Now it is almost a year, no conflict was reported so far.
The idea of radio collaring as a solution and the only method available for monitoring and tracking rescued carnivorous has its own merits and demerits. If the animal behaviour is not known and its biological and other aspects are to be studied or the animal is to be released in to new habitat then radio collaring is acceptable. But if our objective is to release animals into the same habitat and only for easy identification in a situation where released animal may become problematic and hence it has to be recaptured to be kept under captive conditions.
Transponders are issued by the Central Zoo Authority with unique numbers and each zoo has its own specific series. The implanting of transponder with a distinguishing physical mark like ear notch has its own distinct advantages.
The cost involved is negligible and cannot be duplicated. The radio collar approximately weighs 0.9 to 1.4 kgs depending upon the make and quite costly. Once tiger is radio collared, the animal has to be monitored and tracked continuously. Apart from the increased human imprints, whether animal is comfortable with its feeding habit or how it affects its mating behaviour is yet to be fully understood.
Once the animal is released with transponder and visible physical marking like ear notch, the animal could be monitored and the local people must be made aware of its release with its distinct marking. At the very first instance of attack on human being by such released animal, it could be captured and kept in captivity.
The Zoo vet assessed the health of the animal and treated it and also correctly recommended to release where it was caught. This fact is corroborated by the health report received by the Thrissur Zoo vet on February 21, 2013 that mentions about finding the transponder with number 956000002161159.
The tigress was released into the same landscape in November last year, now captured and correctly identified without any ambiguity because of the transponder implanted and will be kept in captivity forever.