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Big cat back in Mumbai forest after a gap of 75 years

Gulf News

Environmentalists and naturalists are excited that a tiger is moving in the forests of Mumbai's Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), in suburban Borivili, and is returning to this environ after a gap of 75 years.

"The pug marks of a tiger has been identified in the Nagla block, north of the SGNP, in Thane district," says Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

"It is still a mystery how the tiger has strayed into this area though no one has seen it so far. Forest guards are trying to locate it but the tiger is an elusive animal and is not easy to see it."

Environmentalists are not sure whether it is an animal that has escaped from a circus though such animals usually seek human habitation.

"Unlike the leopard which can live in disturbed areas, a tiger moves away from these areas," says Rahmani.

Sunjoy Monga, a full-time naturalist, says the tiger could have moved through one of the several forest corridors from the Sahyadri hills through Jawhar or Tungareshwar towards the SGNP.

Rahmani also thinks it could have come from the Dangs area in Gujarat because the tiger moves around a lot, especially at night, though it wanders "when it gets disoriented."

Some time back, a tiger was seen in the isolated Bharatpur bird sanctuary for around two years and it then just disappeared.

However, the only areas with a high tiger population are the wildlife sanctuaries in Melghat and Tadoba near Nagpur, around 650 km from Mumbai and the neighbouring state's Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

According to Monga, villagers near the SGNP have also reported seeing a tiger for the last one and a half years and it's only now that the pug marks, quite distinct and large as compared to a leopard, has been seen here.

Monga, author of City Forest: Mumbai's National Park, published in 2000, also says that the last time a tiger was spotted in Mumbai was on January 1929 near Vihar Lake and was immediately shot dead.

According to the 1882 Bombay Gazetteer (Thana District), the Salsette (Thane-Borivili) hills were infested with tigers which came down to roam the plains.