A Sunderbans tigress, treated for an illness for more than a year and radio-collared before being released in the wild just seven months ago, was found dead on Tuesday.
"We found its skeleton deep inside the jungle on Tuesday morning after a search operation for nearly four days. A team of veterinary surgeons confirmed that the tigress died of an infection that was caused by the collar," said S Dasgupta, director of the Suderban Tiger Reserve.
With this death, two tigresses that created milestones in the history of tiger conservation in the country, have now died of infection caused by radio collars.
Just six months ago, in September 2014, T4, a tigress that was raised in captivity but later relocated in the wild where it gave birth to cubs, died of a similar infection at Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
It was in early 2013 that the three-and-a-half-year old limping Sunderban tigress was captured from the forest and taken to Sajnekhali for treatment. Her hind legs were very weak and she was almost dragging them. After treatment that last a year and a half, the tigress was released in the wild in 2014.
A radio-collar was fitted so that she could be tracked. It was a huge success.
Everything was going well as the tigress moved far and wide over the past few months. But in the last month the signal from the collar showed that the animal was not moving at all.
"Initially we thought that it had given birth and confined itself to a small area. We also thought the collar might have fallen off. But then we thought of launching a search operation," said a senior official of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
The operation started nearly four days ago. The tiger population in the area where the last signal was located is so high that forest officials were too scared to enter the jungle.
"A team of at least 20 officials carrying guns and crackers and literally crawling on the ground managed to reach the spot on Tuesday morning. There they managed to find the skeleton with the patch of skin still clining on to the collar. The skeleton was intact," said Dasgupta.
The ground staff who fed and nurtured her while she was under treatment had developed a bonding and used to call her by different names such as Sundari and Bhebli.