The killing of a tiger cub by poachers near the Bandhavgarh reserve could have been prevented had the Madhya Pradesh forest department followed up a case of timber smuggling detected a few days before the animal was snared, sources have revealed.
The six-month-old tiger cub was found dead on March 29 after it was snared by poachers at a farm owned by deputy speaker Rajendra Singh.
The key accused in the smuggling case is the same person arrested on charges of poaching the tiger, sources in the department said.
Nearly 150 trees and 2,500 bamboo clusters were felled by smugglers in the core area of the reserve.
The timber was then extracted by the smugglers by removing a stretch of the 7-feet high fencing that forms its boundary.
The sources said the tiger cub ventured out of the reserve through the broken fence only to be caught in the trap laid by poachers.
The farmland shares its boundary with the Bandhavgarh reserve.
Experts at the reserve had concluded that 6-month-old tiger cannot jump over a seven-feet-high chain link fencing.
A previous document that suggests the cub was too young to cross the fence was filed during the course of an inquiry into the death of two other six-month-old tiger cubs from the previous litter of the same Bandehi tigress about two years ago.
The then range officer, Tala, Rajesh Tripathi in his inquiry report had stated that the two cubs died of starvation because they could not follow their mother across the fence owing to their infancy and hence did not have access to food that the mother had on the other side of the fence.
The timber felling was reported to park authorities about 3 weeks before the killing of the cub.
During a spot inspection by the range officer and deputy director of the park, not only were trees found to be felled, the authorities also found saw dust suggesting that a saw was used to fell the trees.
The timber consisting of heavy Saaj and Beeja trees besides the bamboo could not have been extracted from inside the reserve without removing the fencing.
Tala range officer KB Singh merely said one person has been arrested in the smuggling case but refused to share any more details.
However, the department was yet to fix any responsibility for the lapses, the sources added.