Tigress, 2 cubs found dead near Tadoba reserve in Maharashtra
A tigress and her two cubs were found dead close to Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district on Monday morning taking the death toll of big cats in the reserve to 11 since January 2019.
The tiger reserve has witnessed frightening human-animal conflict in recent times, with a hunter killing elusive tigress Avni on November 5, 2018, following sustained pressure from locals who claimed that the animal has killed 11 persons around the reserve in a year before her death. The activists claimed that she was killed in violation of the protocol.
The number of tigers in the 1,700-square kilometre Tadoba-Andheri national park, the biggest tiger reserve of Maharashtra, has more than doubled — from 42 in 2014 to 88 in 2018 —bringing them in direct conflict with local farmers, who accuse the endangered species of targeting them and their cattle.
The Maharashtra forest department officials on Monday hinted that the tigress and her two cubs may have been poisoned by the local villagers, another indication of the rising animal-human conflict in the region.
The department officials said that the big cats were found dead near a lake in Metepara jungle, adjacent to the famous Tadoba Tiger Reserve, under Chimur tehsil in Chandrapur district. A forest guard on patrolling duty spotted the carcasses in the morning and informed the wildlife wing of the forest department.
The officials estimate that the dead cubs were aged around eight to nine months while their mother was around five to six years old. “The reasons behind the deaths are yet to be ascertained. The post-mortem is being conducted,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forests-wildlife, Maharashtra state.
He suspected that the cats were poisoned. “We found few people around the spot. We are investigating the matter,” he said, adding that no arrests have been made so far.
The deputy conservator of forests of the Bramhapuri division, Kulraj Singh, and other senior forest officials rushed to the spot to investigate. Maharashtra minister for forest Sudhir Mungantttiwar has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of the tigress and her two cubs.
The man-animal conflicts are inevitable, said Kishore Rithe, member of the state Wildlife Advisory Board. “Rising population, development projects and construction of dams and roads come with their own toll on the ecology. The difficulty in balancing these competing interests leads humans to wildlife habitations and vice-versa,” he said.
As the population of tigers increased drastically in Tadoba and its buffer zones, they often enter villages looking for prey and cattle. “The degradation of habitat led to herbivores entering agricultural fields in the neighbouring areas, causing crop depredations. This has forced farmers to fence their fields affecting the movement of animals and some even electrocuted the fences, leading to their deaths,” Rithe said.
Fifty-seven tigers have died in 2019 so far, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and half of them were outside the tiger reserves with probable cause of their death being conflict with humans. Maharashtra is second after Madhya Pradesh in total tiger deaths reported this year, the data available on the website shows.
The data tabled in the current session of Parliament showed that in the last five years, 224 people have been killed by tigers. Though 657 tigers have died since 2012, there is no separate data on tigers killed in conflict with humans.