A three-member committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has confirmed that an eight-year-old tiger, which killed two persons, died after being crushed by an earthmover.
An inquiry report will be submitted to the NTCA chief soon.
On March 16, the forest department deployed an earthmover to block the movement of the tiger that had already been tranquilised. The rescue operation went on for almost nine hours. However, the animal died the same night.
A video posted on social media by an eyewitness, which showed the animal being hit by the earthmover, spurred the NTCA to order an inquiry. Two deputy inspector generals of the authority – Nishant Verma and Sanjay Kumar – and bureau deputy director RS Thakur reached Ramnagar on March 21.
Speaking exclusively to Hindustan Times, Verma said, “The animal was crushed to death by the JCB (the generic term for earthmover). The incident could have been avoided if the department used elephants instead.”
The tiger’s post-mortem report said it died due to excessive bleeding followed by cardiac arrest. The bleeding occurred when the animal broke a canine while trying to attack the earthmover.
The video showed the cornered animal being pinned down under the machine’s jaw bucket. “The tiger also suffered some serious head injuries,” Verma said.
The team found that the standard operation procedure (SOP) laid down by the NTCA had not been followed, and the forest department did not plan things out. The SOP does not recommend using earthmovers to trap tigers.
The team also criticised police for failing to control the mob. After the tiger was tranquilised, the spot was opened to the public – causing it to retaliate.
“The police lacked expertise in dealing with the mob, due to which the animal became aggressive. Instead of using elephants to block the animal, the forest department used earthmovers that bear no mention in the SOP,” Verma said.
NTCA additional director general Debabrata Swain told HT over the phone that he was yet to see the report because he was travelling. “The SOP has laid down provisions to deal with such cases. If they have not been followed, action must be taken against the officers concerned,” he said.
However, Swain justified the use of earthmovers – saying they are “subject to the need of the hour”.
The Corbett management and the Uttarakhand forest department had come in for severe criticism after the video was posted on various networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.