Explained: The ‘re-wilding’ of wild animals, and the challenges it involves

Source: Indian Express

What is the News?

The  Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is trying to reintroduce an abandoned nine-month-old cub into the wild, after rearing it in ‘captivity’ for two years. This issue has once again brought the controversial concept of ‘re-wilding’ of abandoned or injured animals under the lens.

What is ‘Re-wilding’?
  • The Standard Operating Guidelines laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA) under Section 38(O) of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 provide three ways to deal with orphaned or abandoned tiger cubs:
    • The first is to make an effort to reunite the abandoned cubs with their mother.
    • Second, if a reunion of the cub with its mother is not possible, then shift the cub to a suitable zoo.
    • Third, reintroduction of the cub into the wild after a certain time when it appears that the cub is capable of surviving in the wild independently. This is what is known as ‘Re-wilding’.
Challenges with re-wilding:
  • The process of re-wilding of a wild animal after rearing it in captivity is very complicated and fraught with risks.
    • For example, there have been cases of captivity-reared animals, especially carnivores, attacking human beings after being introduced in the wild.
  • Huge funds are needed for constructing large, well-fenced enclosures, for the equipment required for technical surveillance of the animal.
  • The authorities have to keep tabs on the overall movement of a released animal till the end, which needs a lot of resources and manpower.

Is the concept of re-wilding limited to big cats like tigers and leopards?

  • Rewilding is not limited to cats. There have been efforts to reintroduce other endangered species into the wild after rearing them in captivity.
  • For Example: Bombay Natural History Society(BNHS) in collaboration with the Haryana Forest and Wildlife Department has been running a vulture conservation centre named ‘Jatayu’.
    • Under this, several pairs of endangered gyps species, including the white-backed, the long-billed, and the slender-billed have been successfully introduced into the wild.


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