Munna (T-17) tiger of Kanha national park is again in news, drawing media attentions, at the age of 17 years. As per reports, Munna tiger was born in year 2002 so his expected age is approx. 17 years. During his lifetime, Munna survived in Kanha forest area as dominant tiger with fearless image. He ruled over large area of Kanha & Kisli zones and remained famous among photography world. His stripes pattern in forehead make us realize that nature has written CAT on forehead. At the age of 17, he was surviving on his own, in buffer zone of Kanha national park. Since last one year, he was more noticed in buffer zone area, in resting mode, as symptom of old age. He suddenly came into media attention when mutilated body of 14 years old girl of local village named Jhangul was found 2-3kms away from village area. This incidence raised mass agitation in the area and villagers expressed their anger by attacking Forest Department personals. As two tigers Munna and T2 were active in this area so they were suspected to be responsible for this case. In between them, Munna was more doubtful, due to his physical condition, which often compels old-age tigers to attack on soft targets over natural prey, for sake of survival. In wake of all these facts, Field Director of Kanha national park has taken wise decision to take away Munna tiger from Kanha national park forest area and shift Van Vihar of Bhopal city where he will live rest of his life in enclosure. Here he will live in an enclosure under supervision of Van Vihar officials and now will be feeded by them.
Earlier in beginning of year 2019, their was reports that Munna tiger was gone missing and untraceable since more than a month. Many wildlife lovers suspects that it was end of Munna era and might has been died somewhere in forest, due to old age factor. This all proved myth when certain reports came that Munna tiger was again seen at buffer area forest and his physical condition appears fit and fine, even at this old age. Till this time, he has changed his survival skills and now relying more on cattle killings which was comparatively easy for too young or too old tigers. Things took serious turn in September month when report came that some villager was attacked by tiger in buffer area forest and man was badly injured. As it was not a death case so indication was not taken so seriously. Finally with the killing of village girl and consuming some of its body part, raised alarm among human society. Both villagers and officials were shocked with this incidence. This girl went out to manage cattle grazing in near by area but was reported missing. During search operation, mauled body was recovered 2-3 kms away from site, indicating that some wild animals has attacked and killed her. Condition of body indicated that human flesh was even consumed by that animal. By careful observation of surrounding site, tiger & wild boar pugmarks were noticed, which established the fact that it was act of some tiger. Even in initial reports, it was disclosed that it was case of some wild animal and no animal was pin pointed. As T-17 and T-2 tigers were active in that area so they became prime suspects. In between them, physical condition of Munna tiger (T-17) was such that he was seems to be more responsible this incident. This all based on circumstantial evidences and there was no direct evidence.
May be it is a matter of debate, over shifting of Munna tiger from Kanha forest to enclosure in Van Vihar in Bhopal city. Certain wildlife must advocate that natural life of tiger is compromised by shifting him from natural forest to artificial home called enclosure. It is equivalent to sending sentencing somebody to jail. It was decision of Field Director of Kanha Tiger Reserve, which was taken after considering all many things like circumstantial facts, evidences, active presence of old age tigers, public anger and available options to avoid such unpleasant situations. Physical condition of Munna tiger was such that he was almost not able to catch and kill his natural prey. In such case, anybody will take any such step, which could be unusual for him also but for sake of survival, it was not wrong choice. Thus if Munna tiger was not shifted, it means, leaving scope for more human killing by wild animal or killing of wild animals by man, drawing more media attention, wide criticism by outer world on or death of Munna tiger due to starvation, may went unnoticed to anyone. I believe it is a wise and appropriate decision by responsible management team. We have seen in other states of India, when man-animal conflicts arises, short-cut was adopted by responsible authorities. They often takes extreme step by issuing order to kill the animal, with intention to local human society, rather than shifting the animal to other forest area or enclosure. We have seen such cases in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu states which derived wide criticism from rest of the world.
Munna tiger was born of Limping male and Old Indri female of Kanha national park. It was year 2002 when his birth was reported by officials. With the passage of time, when he grew up and become more visible to tourists & officials, it was noticed with such a stripe pattern on his fore-head that appears as if nature has written “CAT” on it. Every tiger has different strip pattern so we can say it is a gift of nature only. On attaining adulthood, Munna started showing his macho image by gaining body weight of around 200 kg, heavy physical build up, gracious move in forest and remain unaffected by the presence of safari vehicles, close to him. This has given chance to tourists and photographers to capture various moves and moods of Munna tiger and thus he became their favorite tiger in Kanha national park. In this lifetime, he had conflicts with around 7-8 different male tigers and was never seen badly injured condition which indicates that he had won his battles more convincingly and thus managed large territory of Kanha and Kisli range. During his peak days, he was most widely seen tiger of Kanha. Tourists had belief that may be we will not see other tigers but we have high probability to see Munna tiger, during safari drive in his territory. Even when, due to old age, he was marginalized to buffer forest area, where human presence is very common, incidence of man-animal conflict was not reported. Local people had belief that if you will not disturb Munna, he is not a danger for any human being. He was often reported closed to buffer area trails, in resting mode but remain unaffected by passing by humans. Thus it is not easy to accept the conclusion of given case. It is equally true that when it comes to life, anybody can do anything to save his/her life. May be situation was such that Munna has taken this step which is against his own behavioral nature. Now current fact is that Munna is in his new home at Van Vihar Bhopal. Now he need not to struggle hard for meal and no danger of any conflict with other animal. His gracious images over internet has inspired and turned many tourists to photographers, photographers to wildlife activists, derived a large mass to support the notion of “Save Tiger” and “wildlife conservation”. Name of Munna tiger becomes a way to introduce Kanha National Park. Currently popular tigers like Chotta Munna (T-29), Neemal Tigress (T-65) and Umarpani Male (T-30) are progenies of Munna Tiger. During safari, find the impression of Munna tiger in those tigers.