Reinvestigation ordered into death of Karnataka’s most famous tiger Prince
Conservationists alleging that the animal had fallen prey to poachers, pointed out several loopholes in the previous investigation.india Updated: Apr 18, 2017 09:19 IST
A reinvestigation has been ordered into the death of Prince or T-222, Karnataka’s most famous tiger, whose carcass was found earlier this month under mysterious circumstances.
The department was forced to take the step after conservationists, alleging that the animal had fallen prey to poachers, pointed out several loopholes in the previous investigation and threatened to launch an indefinite protest.
The controversy has erupted at a time when the Karnataka forest department is trying hard to come up with an explanation for a string of tiger deaths. Of the 19 tigers that died in the first 65 days of this year in India, nine were from Karnataka, the highest in the country.
In a memorandum submitted last week to the state’s principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), K S Sugara, prominent wildlife activists pointed out that the Prince’s snout, with canines missing, was found severed at least 200 feet from the spot where the rest of the body was found.
“The officials said that the snout could have been ripped off by scavengers such as boars or vultures. But these scavengers would typically go for the meaty parts of the dead animal…why the snout? And why are the teeth missing?” activist and lawyer Santosh Narayan sought to know.
“We have been receiving ridiculous explanations from the officials. At one point, they said that Prince died because of a crude bomb explosion,” he told HT.
Noting that 12-year-old body of the tiger was burnt soon after death, noted wildlife photographer and tiger enthusiast Shamanth Krishnamurthy alleged that officials have been acting truant ever since the news of the death broke out.
Initially, they claimed that the carcass belonged to another tiger and not Prince, who is the most photographed wild animal in the state. The confirmation that it was indeed Prince came only after independent experts matched stripes from stock photographs of Prince with that of the dead tiger and found a perfect match, Krishnamurthy said.
“In fact, we had raised concerns about Prince even before the carcass was found because he had not been spotted for weeks. The department officials dismissed our concerns then. Even after the body was found, they tried to say that it was another tiger until we proved them wrong,” he said.
Reacting to the allegations, PCCF Sugara said the post mortem clearly shows that it is a case of natural death. “These activists are mostly amateurs who don’t know much about these things. Poachers go for the pelt, bones and the reproductive organs and not the snout.”
He dismissed allegations of foul play and said that the department was “100%” committed to protecting its wildlife.
“Despite lack of scientific proof to establish poaching, we have ordered a fresh enquiry by a senior forest officer,” he said.
The memorandum submitted to the PCCF also seeks a grand event in memory of Prince, the same as what was done for Machali, the famous tigress that died in Ranthambore in August last year.
“Karnataka was one of the biggest success stories in tiger conservation. Things are slipping very rapidly,” Narayan said.
The state had the highest number of tigers in the 2015 census and boasted an impressive 35% spike in numbers between 2010 and 2015.