The Gujarat Forest department has begun efforts to locate a tiger after a photo of it crossing a road in Lunawada taluka of Mahisagar district went viral on social media, a senior official said.
A local government school teacher Mahesh Mahera on Sunday claimed he saw a tiger crossing a road near Boriya village in Mahisagar, over 120 kilometres from Ahmedabad, on February 6 and clicked its picture on his mobile phone and shared it with friends on social media platforms.
The photo soon went viral and alerted the state’s forest department on the unlikely presence of a tiger in the area.
Acting on Mr Mahera’s claims, the forest department set up two camera traps and deployed staff to confirm the big cat’s presence, a senior official said.
“The photo of the tiger has gone viral and we can’t yet say if it is fake. Since a citizen has claimed this, we have begun scanning the area. We have placed two camera traps and the number will be increased,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Akshay Saxena said.
“Our staff is trying to locate pug marks and scat (excreta). There is no evidence yet of the tiger in the area,” he added.
“Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are 100 kilometres away. It is surprising if a big cat arrived here without anyone getting to know. We are trying to check and confirm what direct or indirect evidence there could be,” Mr Saxena said.
Mr Mahera claimed he spotted the tiger when he was returning from school on February 6 evening.
“Around 5:15 pm on February 6, I was passing through the area in a four-wheeler when I spotted a tiger emerging from one side of the road and crossing over to the other side. I stopped the car and I clicked its picture. It clearly shows it is a tiger,” he said.
As per the National Tiger Conservation Authority, tigers are found in the wild in 18 Indian states, Gujarat not being among them.
Neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are part of these 18 states, as per the NTCA website.