Efforts to revive the tiger population at Rajasthan's Sariska Tiger Reserve got a jolt on Sunday evening when a tiger was found dead and another went missing. Officials fear the second tiger, too, may be dead.
The dead tiger, ST-1 (Sariska Tiger-1), was the first of seven big cats to have been brought from Ranthambhore National Park after 2004 when it was discovered that the Sariska reserve had no tigers left due to largescale poaching.
The state's chief conservator of forests P Somshekhar said the dead tiger was around six years old and died 4-5 days ago.
Principal chief conservator of forests RN Mehrotra said there was a possibility that the two tigers were involved in a territorial fight and ST-1 succumbed to its injuries. He said there were injury marks under ST-1's left ear.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, forest minister Ramlal Jat and forest officials went to Sariska on Monday to assess the situation. There are only four tigers left in Sariska.
A team of doctors from the Jaipur and Alwar zoos conducted a post-mortem and the tiger was cremated on Monday.
The two tigers were missing for almost three weeks and forest officials were not able to trace them even through their radio collars. On Sunday evening, signals were received and forest officials tracked ST-1 but there was no trace of the other tiger, ST-4.
ST-1 was brought to Sariska in June 2008, the first time a tiger was relocated from one sanctuary to another.
Tiger expert Belinda Wright questioned the entire translocation process, saying the authorities had hastily shifted the animals without rectifying the problems in Sariska, which had led to the disappearance of all its native big cats.
"No efforts have been made to close two major national highways running through the reserve. Moreover, villages and influx of pilgrims in Pandupole inside the tiger reserve are a major source of disturbance ...," she said. (With PTI inputs)