The Gujarat government on Tuesday announced that a tiger had been spotted in the Lunawada forests in Mahisagar district, making the state the only one in the country to host all the three major big cat species: lions, tigers and leopards.
State Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava said the image of a seven to eight-year-old tiger was caught in the night vision cameras for the first time in about three decades. A tiger was last seen in south Gujarat's Dangs forests in the late 1980s but disappeared and every four-year surveys by the Forest Department later ruled out their presence anywhere in the state.
Controversy was raging for nearly a week after government school teacher Mahesh Mahera reported having spotted the tiger near Boriya village in Lunawada taluka on February 6. Mahera was returning home from the school in Boriya when he suddenly noticed a tiger ambling along a state highway road some 40 feet ahead. He immediately shot a video of the big cat on his cell phone before it disappeared in the forests.
Initially some state government officials dismissed the video as that of a wild boar, but at the insistence of some wildlife experts, the Forest Department launched an intensive manual search as well as installed night vision cameras in the vicinity of the sighting.
"Two of the cameras have caught the image of the tiger moving across," Vasava said.
The minister said it was yet not confirmed if this was the lone tiger in Gujarat forests or there were more. He said it could have come from any of the neighbouring states - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan -where the presence of tigers were confirmed.
He said he had contacted the Madhya Pradesh government and was told that a tiger from its reserves near Ujjain was "missing" for some time. "It could also be the same tiger," he said.
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