By Sanjaya Jena

Authorities in India have closed a zoo to visitors after a male tiger from the wild entered the park. Officials say the tiger is roaming around the enclosure of Sara, a tigress, indicating its urge to mate.

The tiger entered the Nandankanan Zoological Park, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar in the eastern state of Orissa, on Monday night. The big cat had caused panic in the zoo by roaming around in an adjacent safari park for the past few months.

A zoo official said they had opened the emergency gates to let the tiger enter the zoo and now its movement was being closely monitored with high-resolution cameras.

In a similar incident, a tigress jumped into a tiger enclosure attracted by a male's mating call in January 1967.

Wildlife officials are now debating whether to let the new tiger remain in the zoo or release it back into the wild after putting a radio collar on it.

"Putting a radio collar on the tiger will enable us to track the feline once it is restored to its original habitat and its movement can be monitored," Orissa chief wildlife warden JD Sharme said.

However, senior zoo officials and activists want the seven-year-old big cat to remain in the zoo. "If the male tiger is retained in the zoo, it would widen the gene pool and infuse new blood into the tiger conservation and breeding programme at the park," said wildlife activist Subhendu Mallick.

The zoo at present has 24 tigers and officials say all male tigers there are descendants of one male tiger who was brought into the park in 1965.

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