Hunted by poachers elsewhere in India, the tiger is turning out to be its own enemy in the subcontinent’s safest striped cat home – Kaziranga National Park.
Forest officials on Thursday recovered the carcasses of two male tigers within the 860 sq km Kaziranga, better known as the habitat of the world’s most one-horned rhinos. The one found in the park’s Kohora Range was decomposed while the other in Bagori Range had died in the past 24 hours.
Both tigers, officials said, died of natural causes and their body parts were intact. But the carcasses sported injury marks.
Autopsy by wildlife veterinarians revealed the Bagori Range tiger, aged 5 years, was gored by a wild buffalo it had presumably preyed on. Kaziranga has 80% of the endangered Asiatic water buffalo, a dangerous animal if threatened.
The other, officials suspected, was killed by another tiger over a territorial dispute. “Though the carcass was decomposed, the body had signs of attack by another tiger. It could have been a victim of feline territorial control,” said D.D. Gogoi, the park’s divisional forest officer.
This, he added, could be the outcome of a high concentration of tigers in Kaziranga 250 km east of Assam capital Guwahati. While the big cat kept vanishing across the country, Ministry of Environment and Forest provided a glimmer of hope in April this year by confirming the presence of 32 tigers per 100 sq km in Kaziranga.
But greens foresaw doom in this “healthy” tiger estimate. “The figure is too good to be true, and even if we accept it, the signs are ominous for the tiger,” said Soumyadeep Dutta of green group Nature’s Beckon.
Poachers haven’t been a threat yet; they prefer the more visible rhinos. Villagers on Kaziranga’s periphery have since 2008 been reacting to the tigers haunting their livestock. That year, they poisoned two adult tigers.
What concerns officials more is tiger killing tiger. Records say the bulk of nine tigers that died of ‘natural causes’ in Kaziranga in 2008 were victims of territorial fights. This year, four tigers had died similarly before the discovery of two carcasses on Thursday.
Unlike lions, tigers are solitary animals. Each tiger ‘controls’ its own territory and hates intrusion by another tiger.