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Big cat seen outside safari

Bhubaneswar, March 24: Evidence of the presence of a tiger once again presented itself in the Chandaka-Dampara sanctuary area today.

Tourists of Nandankanan zoo today sighted a big cat outside the tiger safari. The incident reaffirmed claims of forest officials about the presence of a tiger in the Chandaka-Dampara sanctuary.

A group of tourists visiting the tiger safari spotted the big cat behind a bush outside the safari area.

The zoo authorities said all the tigers in the zoo were intact in their enclosures and the safari area. Nandankanan zoo has been set up on a portion of the Chandaka-Dampara sanctuary.

“We were surprised to see the tiger roaming around outside the safari area. Our first thought was that one of the tigers from the safari had ventured outside,” said Suryanil Palit, a visitor from Calcutta.

Zoo officials said they had received the information regarding sighting of the wild cat.

“We were unable to go outside the safari area as it was already evening. Tomorrow, we will conduct an inspection to find out whether the animal seen by the visitors was indeed a tiger or not,” said deputy director of the zoo C.R Mishra.

In January, the zoo authorities had spotted pugmarks of a wildcat and its cub near the lion safari and dumping yard of the zoo.

Evidence of the wildcat’s presence had surfaced earlier too. Between the last week of December and second week of January, Chandaka forest officials had come across several pugmarks of a wildcat and its cub from the sanctuary area.

On January 3, Barendra Swain, a member of the anti-depredation squad, had sighted the wildcat near the gate of Dholkath in the sanctuary area. Zoo officials had ruled out any threat to the visitors.

Wildlife experts said that the tigress and its cub had come from the Satakosia tiger reserve after crossing the Mahanadi river, but forest officials are yet to confirm this.

The officials of Chandaka forest division on March 11 had found the carcass of a cow at Salabari Pokhari near Pithakhia in Dampara range.

They had suspected that the big cat roaming around in the forest had killed the cow.

The presence of a big cat in the forest area has left villagers who live near the sanctuary area in a panic-stricken state.

“Most of us are not venturing outside after evening fearing the presence of the big cat,” said Bichitra Mohan Jena, a resident of Bhalunka village.