The bodies of two male tiger cubs were found in the Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district on Sunday. Forest officials suspect they were poisoned.
The cubs are believed to have been between 18 and 21 months old. Forest officials found the body of a goat nearby, which could have been the source of poisoning.
“The cubs are children of the Chiroli area tigress, and prima facie they are suspected to have been poisoned,” said principal chief wildlife warden R.N. Mehrotra. “Post mortems have been conducted and anything concrete can be said only after the reports (are out).”
The deaths come at a time when a concentrated effort to raise public awareness about India’s dwindling tigers — only 1,411 left, as hoardings claim —is under way.
Rajasthan Forest Minister Ram Lal Jat has constituted a three-member committee comprising the divisional commissioner of Bharatpur, district collector of Sawai Madhopur and a chief conservator of forests, to probe the cause of the deaths.
“The committee will submit its report within three days,” Jat told Hindustan Times. He said the cubs’ pugmarks were not seen for the past few days.
However, wildlife activists blamed the deaths on officials’ apathy. Dharmendra Khandal of NGO Tiger Watch Foundation said park authorities did not monitor tigers properly and coordination with villagers in the area was poor. “They (officials) are more interested in the tourism part of tiger (park),” he said.
The big cat-human conflict has become common in the park, with tigers often straying into nearby villages.
According to a recent survey, the park has 40 tigers but nine have strayed out of their core habitats.
The park is open to tourists from October 1 to June 30.