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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.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
The Masinagudi forest, part of T23’s range.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
Sekhar Kumar Niraj (atop a ‘kumki’ elephant), Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu, led the operation.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
Tiger, the third sniffer dog after Adhavai and Rana to be involved in the operation.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
Three drones aided the tracking operation. On October 15, the sedated tiger was located with the help of a drone.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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
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
As many as 150 camera traps were set up in Masinagudi, Mudumalai and Gudalur to monitor the movement of T23.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
T23 used a variety of habitats in Mudumalai. It also visited the paddy fields in the tribal settlements in Bosepara.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
At Bosepara, tribal people have to walk up to 3 km through the tiger reserve to reach their village.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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
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
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
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
Forest staff briefing the STF personnel who took charge of the operation on October 2.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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
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
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
‘Kumki’ elephants Srinivasan and Udhayan going into the forest for a midnight search on October 14.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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
Veterinarians waiting for T23 to come out of the bamboo forest along a river near Singara road at Masanagudi.Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy
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
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
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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