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400 villages searched as hunt for missing tiger continues

Tiger at Maharajbag Zoo in Nagpur

Mumbai : Around 400 villages have been searched in over 100 days for the country’s most famous tiger, Jai, after it went missing from the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary near Nagpur in Vidarbha region.

“We have scoured over 400 villages and all possible forest land, where we think Jai could be, since his last known whereabouts on April 18,” wildlife warden Rohit Karu told PTI over phone from Umred.

Asked if Jai could have fallen prey to poachers, Karu said that possibility was remote.

“He came to the sanctuary after traversing large tracts of land. He could be anywhere,” Karu said.

Another forest official, however, did not rule out the poaching angle.

“A tiger, that too as majestic one as Jai, is worth over Rs one crore in international market, when one considers trade in its skin and other body parts,” he said.

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 seven-year-old, 250 kg big cat.

So far, there is no substantial clue about the whereabouts of the tiger, whose electronic collar stopped transmitting his location in April.

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.

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