Star of safaris, Bandipur Prince's charm may be his undoing

Forest dept fears ageing tiger may become easy prey to poachers; to watch his movements

Star of safaris, Bandipur Prince's charm may be his undoing

The star attraction of Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR), 12-year-old tiger ‘Prince’ is getting old and is gradually fading awa­y.

The tiger has been a huge hit with tourists because of its camera-savvy nature. Forest department officials are planning to keep a close watch on him, following fears that poachers may set their eyes on this ageing beast.

“Normally, wild tigers are shy and scared of humans, but Prince does not mind them at all. He is a very popular sight in the tourism zone. But now, he is getting old and is a cause for worry,” BTR director BB Mallesh told Deccan Herald. He has been seen marking his territory regularly. There are instances where he has been spotted strolling on the safari road and vehicles are forced to stop and wait till he walks away.

But these sights would not last forever. He is old, has injuries on his left hind leg and is limping. He is finding it difficult to hunt too, report some forest department officials. Though death is natural and 12 years indicates a full life, the fear of poaching lingers. Tiger parts fetch a huge price in the international illegal wildlife trade. Thus, the department is contemplating keeping a watch on Prince, so that soon after his death, his body is picked up for post-mortem before poachers lay their hands on it, Mallesh added. This will be the first time the department will be keeping a close watch on the animal for its safety. Despite his age, Prince is said to be ruling two tiger territories with his hunting skills.

In forest department and National Tiger Conservation Authority records, he is identified as T222. He was named Prince by the Jungle Lodges and Resorts team. A decade ago, some staffers named animals like in Ranthambore. This was their way of identifying them and inform colleagues about sightings. Prince's mother Gowri (named by JLR) was very popular too. She was not scared of people. Around a decade ago, she used to be regularly sighted by tourists in the tourism zone, near safari road sides, walking or resting, with her three cubs (two females and one male). Prince has inherited this trait from Gowri, say many forest officials.

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