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Wildlife

On the trail of T23

It took 21 days for a team of forest staff, veterinarians, tribal trackers, elephants, sniffer dogs and drones to track down T23, the wounded dominant tiger of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve which had killed four humans and several livestock.

 

T23 moving in a tea estate near Gudalur, bordering the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
T23 moving in a tea estate near Gudalur, bordering the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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The Masinagudi forest, part of T23’s range.
The Masinagudi forest, part of T23’s range.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Sekhar Kumar Niraj (atop a ‘kumki’ elephant), Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, led the operation.
Sekhar Kumar Niraj (atop a ‘kumki’ elephant), Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, led the operation.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Tiger, the third sniffer dog after Adhavai and Rana to be involved in the operation.
Tiger, the third sniffer dog after Adhavai and Rana to be involved in the operation.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Three drones aided the tracking operation. On October 15, the sedated tiger was located with the help of a drone.
Three drones aided the tracking operation. On October 15, the sedated tiger was located with the help of a drone.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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The elite force of Tamil Nadu Forest Department, along with field staff from the Gudalur and Nilgiris Forest Divisions, was among the teams involved.
The elite force of Tamil Nadu Forest Department, along with field staff from the Gudalur and Nilgiris Forest Divisions, was among the teams involved.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Forest staff testing a net gun at Masinagudi. One net gun was kept ready to fire a net to entangle the tiger.
Forest staff testing a net gun at Masinagudi. One net gun was kept ready to fire a net to entangle the tiger.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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As many as 150 camera traps were set up in Masinagudi, Mudumalai and Gudalur to monitor the movement of T23.
As many as 150 camera traps were set up in Masinagudi, Mudumalai and Gudalur to monitor the movement of T23.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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T23 used a variety of habitats in Mudumalai. It also visited the paddy fields in the tribal settlements in Bosepara.
T23 used a variety of habitats in Mudumalai. It also visited the paddy fields in the tribal settlements in Bosepara.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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At Bosepara, tribal people have to walk up to 3 km through the tiger reserve to reach their village.
At Bosepara, tribal people have to walk up to 3 km through the tiger reserve to reach their village.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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The family members of M. Basavan, 82, on October 1, at Masinagudi. His body was found near a bush. T23 had killed him and eaten his hand and intestines.
The family members of M. Basavan, 82, on October 1, at Masinagudi. His body was found near a bush. T23 had killed him and eaten his hand and intestines.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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T23 is seen at the far end of the tea garden near Gudalur. The tiger did not panic whenever it was chased; it moved away quietly into the bushes.
T23 is seen at the far end of the tea garden near Gudalur. The tiger did not panic whenever it was chased; it moved away quietly into the bushes.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Tamil Nadu Forest Department personnel and members of the Wildlife Disaster Management Team, Kerala (Wayanad Forest Division) continuing the search on September 27 despite the heavy rain and humid conditions.
Tamil Nadu Forest Department personnel and members of the Wildlife Disaster Management Team, Kerala (Wayanad Forest Division) continuing the search on September 27 despite the heavy rain and humid conditions.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Kalan (left), one of tribal trackers who led the operation, and his team members Bomman (in khaki-coloured pants) and MeenKalan (with knife in the foregorund). Also in the picture is P. Arunkumar (right), Deputy Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (Buffer Zone).
Kalan (left), one of tribal trackers who led the operation, and his team members Bomman (in khaki-coloured pants) and MeenKalan (with knife in the foregorund). Also in the picture is P. Arunkumar (right), Deputy Director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (Buffer Zone).Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Map
Map
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Forest staff briefing the STF personnel who took charge of the operation on October 2.
Forest staff briefing the STF personnel who took charge of the operation on October 2.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Trackers and a forest veterinarian looking at a pug mark in the buffer zone on October 4. It had rained heavily on the previous night.
Trackers and a forest veterinarian looking at a pug mark in the buffer zone on October 4. It had rained heavily on the previous night.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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A member of a tracking team taking a picture of a pug mark at Singara road. T23’s pug mark measured 15 cm by 15 cm.
A member of a tracking team taking a picture of a pug mark at Singara road. T23’s pug mark measured 15 cm by 15 cm.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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T23 walking out of the bushes above the road at 3 p.m. on September 28. The veterinarian with the dart gun in the jeep did not see it though at one point it was about 10 metresfrom him.
T23 walking out of the bushes above the road at 3 p.m. on September 28. The veterinarian with the dart gun in the jeep did not see it though at one point it was about 10 metresfrom him.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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‘Kumki’ elephants Srinivasan and Udhayan going into the forest for a midnight search on October 14.
‘Kumki’ elephants Srinivasan and Udhayan going into the forest for a midnight search on October 14.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Wildlife veterinarians led by N. Kalaivanan (second from right), filling the darts with medicine. They followed this procedure of readying the dart guns every single morning of the operation.
Wildlife veterinarians led by N. Kalaivanan (second from right), filling the darts with medicine. They followed this procedure of readying the dart guns every single morning of the operation.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Veterinarians waiting for T23 to come out of the bamboo forest along a river near Singara road at Masanagudi.
Veterinarians waiting for T23 to come out of the bamboo forest along a river near Singara road at Masanagudi.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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Forest staff from the Masanagudi checkpost running behind T23 after seeing it cross the Masanagudi-Theppakadu Road and move towards the Moyar forest on October 15.
Forest staff from the Masanagudi checkpost running behind T23 after seeing it cross the Masanagudi-Theppakadu Road and move towards the Moyar forest on October 15.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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The sedated and secured tiger was treated for its wounds and put in standardised cage and taken to Mysore Zoo for further treatment.
The sedated and secured tiger was treated for its wounds and put in standardised cage and taken to Mysore Zoo for further treatment.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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The ‘kumki’ elephants Udhayan and Srinivasan were integral to the success of the operation. T23 was darted by a veterinarian sitting on the back of Udhayan.
The ‘kumki’ elephants Udhayan and Srinivasan were integral to the success of the operation. T23 was darted by a veterinarian sitting on the back of Udhayan.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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