India on tenterhooks as major search for celebrity tiger proves fruitless

A major search operation is under way in India for the country’s most famous tiger, with millions of adoring fans worried about the big cat. The hunt for Jai is being led by wildlife officials who hope to find the beloved 250kg animal by Friday – International Tiger Day – but admit they are clueless as to his fate. The Maharashtra state government has offered a reward of 50,000 rupees ($745) for information on Jai’s location, a small fortune for the hundreds of villagers engaged in the hunt. Meanwhile, Indian newspapers are carrying daily reports about where the big cat may be or what fate might have befallen him with some claiming reported, but unconfirmed, sightings.

Whether he has moved to forest interiors or is with a new mate, no information is available as of yet.

Tiger expert M S Reddy

Named after Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s character in the hit 1975 film “Sholay”, the tiger shot to nationwide fame three years ago after embarking on an epic hike through villages, rivers and perilously dangerous highways in successful pursuit of a mate. A firm favourite with tourists and conservationists alike, the big cat was last seen at the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, where he usually lives, on April 18. Forestry rangers said they first become worried about Jai’s fate after his electronic collar stopped transmitting his location three months ago, while tourist sightings of the cat have dried up.

He’s successfully fathered more than 20 cubs and has boosted the local economy by attracting wildlife enthusiasts. Losing such a majestic tiger would be a great loss for India

Conservationist Rohit Karoo