A rare experiment to release a Royal Bengal tigress in the wild, which was under foresters’ care since it was found abandoned as a cub 11 years ago, ended in tragedy at Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
The savaged carcass of T5, the name of the tiger, was found at Panna’s Badgadi forest range by a morning patrol on Saturday. The park administration attributed the death to territorial fight but more details would be known after an autopsy.
Officials said the 11-year-old tigress was raised in Kanha national park after it was found abandoned as a cub in the forest by field staff. After she reached adulthood, T5 was brought to Panna in 2011 and released in the forest.
It was a unique experiment in a country where there are very few instances of tigers brought up by forest officials being released in the wild.
Her demise raised the toll to 18 in MP since January 1, leaving wildlife enthusiasts and officials worried over the spike in tiger mortality, especially in Pench that accounted for 50% of the deaths. Since January 2015, 29 tigers have died in MP.
Up until 2006, Panna in the Vindhyan ranges, spread over two districts in northern MP, had an estimated population of 24 tigers. But by 2009, a Wildlife Institute of India study put the number down at zero — there was only a single male tiger left in the dry, dense forest.
Some had fallen prey to poaching, poisoning by local villagers who’d had their cattle killed by big cats and dacoity, after an evicted encroacher decided to take revenge by damaging the forest habitat. Others had simply reached the end of their 15-year lifespan and died of natural causes or illness. For a while, Panna remained a tiger reserve with a single lonely male. But a reintroduction programme by translocating tigers from other reserves in the state as well as efforts of a dedicated forest team paid off. It has around two dozen tigers now.