Three tiger cubs have gone missing from the Umred-Karhandla wildlife sanctuary near Nagpur.
This has put the state wildlife wing in a lurch after Jai, the tiger, went missing.
The cubs were the offsprings of Chandi, a popular tigress at the sanctuary and according to sources, had not been spotted by the forest department personnel or tourists for the past three months.
Chandi had given birth to four cubs about six months back. All four, along with the mother, had been spotted by tourists and forest officers and also been caught on camera traps. However, now the tigress is only seen with one cub and the other three have gone missing.
“We have not seen the three cubs for the past three months,” said a wildlife tourist guide at Umred-Karhandla sanctuary. “I last spotted the tigress with one cub about a month back.”
The principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF)-Wildlife, Shree Bhagwan, however, dismissed the theory of the missing cubs. “How can you spot a big cat during the rainy season?” he questioned and added that the wildlife wing would conduct a census of big cats at Umred-Karhandla after monsoon.
In another development, a male tiger has made Umred-Karhandla sanctuary his home, recently. This comes after a tiger, Jai, named after Amitabh Bachchan’s character in Sholay, went missing from April 18. Jai came to the sanctuary after travelling 150km, from the Nagzira-Navegaon tiger reserve of Gondia-Bhandara district in September 2013. It went on to father more than 20 cubs. The big cat was radio-collared by wildlife expert Bilal Habib last year, but the link failed in a few months.
Amid questions on Jai’s whereabouts, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into the case last week. Earlier, BJP Lok Sabha member Nana Patole from Bhandara alleged that Jai had been poached. Patole even wrote a letter to Narendra Modi in this regard and claimed that two more tigers from the region had been poached in connivance with forest department officials.
Patole maintained that he would bring up evidence when a high-level probe is started. He even described the massive search operation for Jai as a “cover up”.