The Madhya Pradesh forest department is investigating whether officials allowed relatives of a state cabinet minister inside Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve late in the night, resulting in the accidental death of a tigress.
Forest officials found the dead tigress on May 21 after being alerted by tourists who saw the animal in pain. The post-mortem revealed that a fast-moving vehicle had hit her.
“Efforts are still on to trace the vehicle that hit the tigress,” said a senior state forest department official, refusing to comment on whether a minister’s relatives were present in the reserve, 481 km from Bhopal, that night. “All aspects are being investigated.”
The forest department has, however, suspended three officials. One allegedly accompanied the minister’s relatives. “We would like to know what one of the suspended officials was doing in Bandhavgarh, which was not under his jurisdiction,” said P.K. Sen, former director of Project Tiger.
It was alleged that the vehicle in which they were travelling accidentally hit the tigress, after which they fled. The carcass was found next morning.
State forest minister Sartaj Singh said the officials had been suspended for not cooperating with the investigation and for being absent on the day of the incident. In a report submitted to the National Tiger Conservation Authority on Wednesday, the state government said an assistant director and two range officers had been suspended for negligence.
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has sought a report from the chief minister.