Tiger lurking near injured tigress K4 a new threat

K4’s very survival might be at stake if it mates and gets pregnant.

By Author  |  Published: 12th Jan 2019  1:09 am
K4
The male tiger that was first seen in Kawal Tiger Reserve is now said to be moving in Chennur forest, which is home to K4. — File photo

Hyderabad: The New Year brought a possible fresh threat to the life and safety of K4 — the tigress with a wire snare around its abdomen that made the Chennur forest division in Mancherial district its home for over a year.

A transient male tiger, first spotted mid-December in the Khanapur forest division of Kawal Tiger Reserve, moved to the Chennur division, Forest Department officials said. This raises the prospects of it attempting to mate with K4, which is over two years old and at its prime mating phase.

There is every chance that the two tigers will attempt to mate if they are in the same area, a wildlife veterinarian told Telangana Today. With its severely constricted abdomen, K4’s very survival might be at stake if it mates and gets pregnant.

Forest Department sources, meanwhile, confirmed to Telangana Today on Friday that the male tiger was last seen just about 50 km away from the area K4 was moving in. In terms of areas covered by the male tiger, it was last reported to be within striking distance of K4.

K4 is living with the tightened wire snare around its abdomen for over a year now. Though the Forest Department set up a special committee to monitor its movements and take steps to catch it, it did not see any success.

According to the officials, K4 is now moving between two forest patches in the Chennur division and the next steps to be taken to capture it were discussed at a meeting of the committee earlier this week.

Among the proposals discussed were organising a ‘haka’ or a ‘drumbeat’ to drive the tigress to a desired location where veterinarians could wait with tranquiliser guns. This was discussed in some detail, but was eventually ruled out because it was too risky. Any wild animal such as a tigress, leopard or bear disturbed or irritated might turn around and attack people.

Another option discussed was to call for trained elephants to track K4, but that too was taken off the table with fears that the already highly sensitive big cat might feel threatened by organised tracking on elephants and move to a different area.

There is a ‘neck’ — a thinner strip of forest that connects two larger forest blocks — where K4 moves between. It was tentatively decided to erect some machans in this area and not return to those spots for a few days to let the tigress get used to the structures.

Once the officials are confident that K4 is moving in the area where the machans are erected, they will plan to have wildlife vets armed with tranquiliser guns stationed on them to try and immobilise the tigress.

Stress hormones a possible savior of K4

Hyderabad: Though tigress K4 faces the prospect of mating with the wandering male tiger from Kawal Tiger Reserve and becoming pregnant, there is also the possibility that the very stress K4 has been under from the wire snare around its abdomen might be its savior from a pregnancy that might well take its life.

Studies in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan in the past have shown that a tigress, when under stress, may fail to conceive despite mating with a male because of the stress-induced presence of elevated levels of faecal Glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM), said Imran Siddiqui, a wildlife biologist from Wildlife Conservation Society of India.

When under stress, female tigers had been known to avoid contact with males, he added. And since tigress K4 is free ranging, the only way to study fGCM levels is by chemical analysis of its scat samples. C Saravanan, field director of Kawal Tiger Reserve, told ‘Telangana Today’ that scat samples of K4 were being collected and would be sent to CCMB for analysis. “We will be able to determine the oestrogen (a main female sex hormone) levels as
well as GCM levels to have a better understanding of its health and condition,” Saravanan said.

He also said they had intensified the operations to track K4 and added more camera traps which were being checked daily instead of once in a week, along with the reintroduction of live baits for K4 to feed on.