The translocated tiger in Sariska was apparently poisoned to death and was not a victim of territorial fight as top Rajasthan forest officials had claimed on Monday.
The post-mortem of the tiger, translocated from Ranthambore in 2004, showed no injury marks. The initial viscera examination indicates poisoning. “The minister (Jairam Ramesh) is furious and that’s why he is rushing to Sariska tomorrow morning,” an environment ministry official said on Tuesday.
National Tiger Conservation Authority member-secretary Rajesh Gopal, who returned from Sariska on Tuesday and submitted a report to Ramesh was not available for comment.
In a damage-control exercise, the Rajasthan government suspended two officials — deputy field director B Praveen and assistant field director Mukesh Saini — for negligence leading to the death of the tiger, codenamed ST-1 (Sariska Tiger-1).
Rajasthan’s principal secretary (forests) VS Singh said the officials were suspended as they were not able to track the tiger even though it had been missing for more than a week. “The tiger had died five days ago but the officials failed to notice it. This is utter negligence. Earlier too, the casual attitude of officials in Sariska led to the loss of all tigers from the reserve. But this time no negligence will be tolerated,” he said.
Ramesh is likely to announce suspension of Wildlife Institute of India’s tiger relocation monitoring team at Sariska on Wednesday.
“For four days the forest department officials were not able to locate the tiger despite it being radio-collared,” said former Project Tiger Director P K Sen in New Delhi. A radio collar is a global positioning device used for tracking animals in the wild. The second relocated tiger was untraceable for the past four days. The state’s forest officials claimed the missing tiger’s pug marks were spotted near a temple in the Sariska reserve. “The episode is indicative of the mess in Sariska,” Sen said.
Ramesh on Tuesday admitted there were “governance and administrative” problems in the Rajasthan’s tiger relocation programme but did not agree with independent experts that the project had failed. “The programme has been implemented in consultation with best experts in the country,” Ramesh said.
Sen and NCTA member Valmik Thapar have asked Ramesh to suspend the tiger relocation programme until wider consultations are held with independent experts.
With inputs from HTC, Jaipur