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‘Preserve skeletons of big cats’

Experts question the practice of incinerating tiger remains after post-mortem examination.

lucknow Updated: Jul 29, 2017 16:01 IST
Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar
Hindustan Times, Bareilly
Skeletons,Big cats,Wildlife Act
Since 2015, IVRI has preserved skeletons of animals including horse, lion and crocodile.

Ever wondered what happens to a tiger when it dies? In most cases, the national animal on whose conservation government spends crores, is taken for a post-mortem examination and incinerated – reduced to ash. The practice, which was implemented as per the Wildlife Act to prevent smuggling of animal parts, is now being questioned.

“It is sad that an animal like the tiger is turned into ash once it dies. In fact, the remains of the animal should be preserved for many years to come,” said Dr Santosh Gaikwad, a taxidermist.

Gaikwad says there is a clause in the wildlife act, which allows preservation of such animals for educational purposes. The clause is currently being used by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Izzatnagar, Bareilly.

The deemed animal research centre has taken an initiative to preserve skeletons of big cats in their anatomy department. “We receive a wide range of animals, including big cats, at our department for post-mortem examination. We have now decided to preserve skeleton of some of important animals,” said Dr RK Singh, director, IVRI.

The director has tasked the anatomy department for the job. “Once the post-mortem of the animal is done, it is handed over to our department for preservation,” said Dr Amar Pal, HoD, anatomy department.

“The process starts with burying the animal in a fixed ditch with salt to increase the rate of its natural decomposition,” he added. The decomposition process takes over six to eight months when the remains are exhumed and cleaned to start the restructuring. The restructuring is done by faculty members to guide the assistant to rejoin over 200 different pieces of bones.

“The bones are linked with each other using metallic wire in their natural shape before being put up on display for study,” said Dr Archana Mahapatra, who oversees the restructuring part.

Since 2015, the department has preserved skeletons of animals including horse, lion and crocodile.

“We got a dead lion from Saifai Lion Safari, which is in process of preservation,” said Singh. The institute had received a tiger carcass earlier this month, but it had decomposed “beyond preservation” and was eventually burnt.

“We have very little control on the condition of animal carcass that we receive. But once these are here, we try our best to preserve them. Animals as important as tigers must be conserved in wild and preserved once they pass away,” added Singh.

First Published: Jul 29, 2017 16:01 IST