As the hunt for tiger Jai continued after it went missing from Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary near Nagpur, state Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar on Tuesday said he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a CBI probe into its disappearance.
Rescuers, wildlife experts and volunteers have been scouring the forest, trying to locate the 250-kilogram tiger, who was last spotted on April 18.
Speaking to reporters here, Mungantiwar said, “I would soon write to Prime Minister demanding investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the missing big cat.”
Meanwhile, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Bhandara-Gondia, Nana Patole, also said that he would seek PM’s intervention into the matter.
Patole expressed apprehension that Jai might have fallen prey to poachers as there has been no trace of it since the past four months.
“Along with Jai, his grandfather Rashtrapati, his father Dendu and sibling Viru have also gone missing. Jai’s disappearance has become such a hot topic of debate that even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had in July said that he also felt that Jai was alive,” the MP said.
According to Patole, Jai was radio-collared, but of late his radio collar had stopped working, giving rise to the worst fears.
He added that two persons were arrested on suspicion of poaching, further fuelling the poaching theory.
Meanwhile, sources in the Forest department said that a wide search for Jai is on covering the forest area between Bor in Wardha district, Bramhapuri in Chandrapur district and New Nagzira Navegaon Tiger Reserve (NNTR).
Named after Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s character in the hit 1975 film “Sholay”, Jai was in limelight three years ago after embarking on an epic hike through villages, rivers and perilously dangerous highways in successful pursuit of a mate.
Jai has been a firm favourite with tourists and conservationists alike. Wildlife officials have launched a search operation for the royal feline. So far, there is no substantial clue about the whereabouts of the tiger, whose electronic collar stopped transmitting his location in April.
The tiger population of Maharashtra, which was 169 in 2010, has gone up to 190 in 2015. Out of this 70-odd tigers are accounted for in Tadoba tiger reserve.
The state government has offered a reward of Rs 50,000 for information on Jai’s location. Some people residing close to the Umred Karhandla sanctuary have also performed a pooja for his safety.
Jai’s disappearance since for over four months has come as a huge setback for the state. Recently, the state had roped in Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador for its tiger conservation initiative.