The four-year-old tiger was found soaking up the coolness of a pond and was tranquilised. Thankfully, the only injuries were frayed nerves of zoo officials and the pinprick of a tranquilser dart for the truant, who was quite grumpy at waking up in its old home.
Shaurya was in the rescue enclosure and perhaps desperate to find some relief from the scorching summer. It was close to 43 degrees in Bhopal on Tuesday and the smell of the pond in the barasingha enclosure would have been enticing.
If tigers could pray, someone answered and left the door open. Around 10am, Van Vihar assistant director Ashok Kumar Jain said, an alert went out that Shaurya had run away from its enclosure at the rescue centre and into the open. There were 60-70 visitors in the open-air park then. They were located and hurriedly evacuated within 15 minutes. Thankfully, it was a weekend and early in the day, otherwise there’s usually quiet a crowd. None of them knew a tiger was on the loose, say officials. Entry of tourists from both gates of the park was closed immediately.
Jain said four teams set out in search of the tiger. Around an hour later, a team led by forest guard Sharmanand Gaire spotted Shaurya resting in a pond, in the shade of trees, on the edge of the Barasingha enclosure. The spot was around 500 metres from its enclosure.
Immediately, all the teams sped to the spot and surrounded the tiger to ensure that it doesn’t get out of the park. Wildlife expert Dr Atul Gupta tranquilised the tiger and when it fell unconscious it was rushed to a cage where it was given an antidote. Then, it was shifted back to its housing at the rescue centre.
“Fortunately, the tiger was found and nobody was harmed in the operation which lasted more than two hours,” Jain said. A probe has been ordered to investigate the negligence of the zoo-keeper and three assistants. It’s suspected that someone left the gate open and Shaurya took its chance. Jain said Shaurya was rescued from Harda forest in a critical condition on January 13, 2021, and brought to Van Vihar for treatment. It recovered completely after around two months and was released in its natural habitat in Satpura Tiger Reserve on March 9, 2021.
However, it damaged its canine teeth and was rescued again on June 16, 2021, and brought back to Van Vihar. Since then it has been kept at the enclosure at the rescue centre at the park.