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Maharashtra: 4 sloth bears, leopard drown in Chandrapur district

Four sloth bears were found dead at the bottom of a well in Chandrapur district, in the buffer zone of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, on Thursday morning
By Prayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 30, 2021 12:03 PM IST

Four sloth bears were found dead at the bottom of a well in Chandrapur district, in the buffer zone of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, on Thursday morning. The victims include one male and one female adult, and two cubs. Forest department officials suspected that the animals had drowned after falling into the well — which was not cased with vertical walls — by accident.

Praveen NR, chief conservator of forests (Chandrapur) confirmed the development and said, “The autopsy results are not available yet, but the animals likely fell into the well inadvertently, perhaps when it was dark. The incident happened outside the tiger reserve area in Chandrapur forest division in Vadholi village.” He also added that the animals were not missing any body parts, ruling out any indication of poaching.

Meanwhile, a six-year-old female leopard was also found dead at the bottom of a well in Pune district’s Junnar taluka on Wednesday morning. The animal was also found wrapped in a large plastic bag, eliciting scepticism as to whether its death had been staged. Autopsy results showed the animal had drowned, with water entering its lungs through the nose and mouth. Department officials said that there were no signs of poaching.

“The animal was found near Dangarwadi village in Junnar taluka. A sugarcane farmer saw the animal and alerted us. The well in which the leopard drowned is surrounded by cane fields on three sides, but the crops have been harvested and the area is now being used to graze livestock. It’s possible that the leopard was looking for prey in the area,” said Manisha Kale, round forest officer, Narayangaon.

Anish Andheria, chief executive officer of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, said, “Signs of drowning do not necessarily rule out other causes of death, for example poisoning. It is highly unlikely that the leopard got entangled in a plastic bag before or after drowning, but prima facie the incident merits further investigation on the part of the forest department. Theoretically, an unconscious animal (poisoned but alive) can be put in a bag and dumped in a well. A histopathology report of the organs and relevant body tissue can easily rule out poisoning. Another possibility is a road accident. A seriously injured animal can be dumped in the well to pass it off as a drowning case”.

Forest department officials, however, said they have concluded the death to be due to drowning only.

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