T1, the first tigress brought from Bandhavgarh and reintroduced in Panna Tiger Reserve under the Panna Tiger Reintroduction Project was found dead on 31 January 2023.
The Tiger Reintroduction Project was started after the Panna Tiger Reserve had lost all its tigers due to poaching and biotic pressure.
When the ambitious Panna Tiger Reintroduction Project had just taken off 14-years ago, Panna Field Director Sreenivasa Murthy, during a one-on-one conversation, had briefed me about , T1 (Tigress from Bhandhavgarh), T2 (Tigress from Kanha) and T3 (male tiger from Pench) brought into Panna in March 2009. The comprehensive Tiger Reintroduction Project was conceived in technical collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India and the project had moved forward after getting the green signal from National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The Panna Tiger Reintroduction Project envisaged reintroducing six tigers in all including the earlier two females, T1 and T2, as part of founder population to start with (two males and four females). Under the project, a male tiger from Pench (T3) was brought in the month of November 2009. After staying in the park area for a short period, the tiger moved out.
When the Reintroduction project was in its initial stages, Mr Murthy, who was then the Panna Field Director had explained that it was for the first time that a ‘homing’ instinct was observed in a wild tiger. T3 was always moving in the southern direction where his home—Pench was located. He travelled more than 450 km during that one month. Once he was rescued and released in the park for the second time there was no looking back. He met and made friendship with T1 and T2 and both littered in no time. T1 gave birth to four cubs in mid-April. T2 also gave birth to four cubs in October 2010.
Drawing attention to T4 (orphaned and hand-reared tigress from Kanha), Mr. Murthy had spoken of a new chapter in tiger conservation history at Panna. T4 was an orphaned tiger cub of just 15 days along with two other siblings when her mother was killed at Kanha. The Kanha management picked up the three cubs and hand reared them with a plan to re-wild them. T4 was the first to be picked up and was relocated for re-wilding at Panna in March 2011. T4 struggled in the initial months but T3 helped her to learn the art of hunting in the wild and her re-wilding process. T4 touched a new milestone when she delivered two cubs in the mid-November 2011 declaring to the world that she is the first to achieve such a rare feat. Subsequently T5 (sibling of T4) was also released at Panna in the month of September 2011.
T1 and T2 delivered their second litter in 2012 with four and three cubs respectively. Thus Panna had become the most successful tiger conservation project by 2012. Of the six tigers that were to be reintroduced by then, five tigers were reintroduced successfully before the end of 2012. This included re-wilding of two tigresses.
Within 3-years of the launch of the Tiger Reintroduction Project, Panna tiger Reserve was having five adult and thirteen cubs to sub-adult tigers, totalling 18 tigers.
Tigers brought to Panna were named as T1, T2, T3, T4 and T5, for identification purpose. The role of these tigers brought from other tiger reserves would be written in golden letters when the history of repopulating the Panna Tiger Reserve shall be written. – Sreenivasa Murthy, former Field Director Panna Tiger Reserve
T1 had given birth to four cubs on February 16-17, 2012. This was her second litter in the new habitat. The tigress kept all the cubs at the same place for more than a month. Around midnight on March 29, she took two of them to another hideout about 2 kms away. The same night she returned and took away one of the two remaining cubs. After a gap of about 60 hours she returned to the original cave and spent about 11 hours with the fourth cub. She did not return here even once after leaving the spot on April 2. The park management used camera traps to monitor the cub all these days. To save the abandoned cub’s life, the Panna Tiger Reserve management, with the help of a team from the Wildlife Institute of India, on April 5, 2012 removed the cub from its original hideout in order to monitor its health and start alternative feeding. This is just one example to show the endless efforts that have gone into making a huge success of the Panna Tiger Reintroduction Project. There is also the example of T3 and how this male tiger was twice rescued and released in the Park.
T4 and T5 died in 2014 and 2016 and now T1 also has passed away after having gone past her breeding age.
Today Panna stands tall against Zero Tigers in 2009
As per official projections (2022 Mid-year review), PTR would be having 23 breeding tigresses (by the end of year 2022). As per estimates through Continuous Camera Traps, PTR is having around 57-60 tigers (40-42 adult + 17-20 sub-adult) along with 12-14 cubs. As per data collected, adult sex ratio (M/F) is 0.58 while for sub-adults, sex ratio is nearly 1. Overall (adult + sub-adult) sex ratio is 0.74.
Panna tigers established their meta-population in Sarbangha forests of Satna district in 2016. They have since traversed in all directions from Panna utilising the corridor forests. Panna 212 (P212) has been introduced into the Sanjay Tiger Reserve in the Sidhi district in 2014 and another Panna tiger (P213-21) travelled on his own from Panna to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in 2017 and is now known as T71 there.
Before signing off, one would like to extend salutations to all living and departed founder tigers who have helped in doubling the Panna tiger numbers as per the St. Petersburg declaration of 2010 signed by the tiger range countries that had resolved to double tiger numbers across their range by 2022.
R Sreenivasa Murthy, former Field Director Panna Tiger Reserve has played a distinguished innings as an Indian Forest Service officer borne on the Madhya Pradesh Cadre. He is recognised across the globe as a wildlife expert. His knowledge of tigers and the eco-systems is remarkable. He gets the major credit for the success of the Panna Tiger Reintruduction Project. He has also headed the Madhya Pradesh State Biodiversity Board. One recalls how he had boldly demonstrated his wildlife management skills when he had deftly handled and rescued a wild elephant when posted in the Sarguja district bordering Bihar when it was part of Madhya Pradesh before the bifurcation of the State and formation of Chattisgarh in the year 2000.