Not just nine tiger deaths, over half-a-dozen missing sub-adults from the core areas of the Pench Tiger Reserve have left local wildlife conservationists and other stakeholders worried.
According to local wildlife enthusiasts, gypsy cab drivers and guides, at least seven sub-adult tigers from the 2013 litter of three tigresses had not been sighted for a long time. While three cubs of the ‘Langde’ tigress and four of ‘Sharmele’ tigress have been “missing,” a male cub of the ‘Collarwalle’ tigress was reported dead days after it went missing.
Fears have compounded after a mobile video clip emerged, where some local villagers are seen taking a tiger cub out of its den in the Rukhad area of the Pench reserve and clicking photos on mobile phone. HT is in possession of a copy of the video clip, which forest department officials confirmed was two years old.
Field director of Pench Tiger Reserve, Shubranjan Sen, however, told HT that sub-adult tigers going missing from the core areas were not something new.
“Many tigers have moved out of the core and were found later in far off places, where they had established their territories,” he said, adding that a sub-adult male went missing from the core in 2008, which resurfaced in Mukki range of Kanha tiger reserve in 2011.
“In a similar way, four tigers moved out and were later found 160 km away in the Bhandara division outside Nagzira in Maharashtra,” he said. He said given the fragmented nature of the tiger habitat, it was not always possible to keep track which sub-adult was moving in which direction,” he said.
However, local wildlife conservationists are not convinced. Wildlife activist Imran Khan told HT that long time after Chotta Charger, the cub of Collarwalle tigress, went missing the forest department officials revealed in February this year that it had died in a territorial fight.
Asked about Chhota Charger, Sen said forest officials did not call cubs by names given by others. “All I can say is that one of three male cubs of the Collarwalle tigress died in a territorial fight. Two cubs from her 2013 litter and two cubs of her recent litter have been sighted together, which is a rare thing,” he said.