2 tigers found dead in Maharashtra; 2018 toll is 21
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2 tigers found dead in Maharashtra; 2018 toll is 21

mumbai Updated: Jan 01, 2019 08:25 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
maharashtra,national tiger conservation authority,NTCA

The carcass of male tiger T16 found in Nagpur.(Maharashtra forest department)

Two tigers died of suspected poisoning between Sunday and Monday in the Pauni range in the periphery of Umred-Karhandla-Paoni Wildlife Sanctuary in Nagpur, taking the deaths in the state in 2018 to 21, equal to last year’s figure. A half-eaten carcass of a wild pig was found near one of the tigers, raising the forest department’s suspicion that it may have been a poisoned bait.

According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), India saw 92 tiger deaths this year, with Madhya Pradesh topping the list at 23, and Maharashtra ranking second.

Spread across 189.30 sqkm area of dense forests, Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 11 to 15 tigers.

On Sunday, the carcass of a dominant male tiger T16, also known as Charger, aged seven, was found in compartment no. 226, Chichgaon beat, Paoni range in Bhandara district, about 70km from Nagpur, after local tourists spotted the body around 8am and informed the forest department.

While the carcass was sent for post-mortem, investigation found no injury marks on the body.

On Monday, when forest officials were surveying the area around 10.30am, they found carcass of another tiger, identified as T4, also known as Rai, less than a kilometre away. The seven-year-old tigress’ body was found in compartment number 226 in Cichagaon beat of Paoni range. She had been called the ‘Queen of Paoni’ as she was one of the dominant females who gave birth to three cubs – Raja, Pawan and Mala.

Forest officers said the two deaths might have taken place at the same time.

“Along with the dead tigress, we found a semi-eaten carcass of a wild pig near the second carcass, which indicates this might have been a case of revenge killing by villagers from within the sanctuary. There are farmlands in close vicinity to the spot and revenge killing is not new here,” said Ravikiran Govekar, field director, Pench Tiger

“Prima facie, it seems the wild pig was poisoned, killed and left out as bait, and the physiological changes on the tigers’ carcass indicate poisoning. However, a toxicology test will confirm our suspicion, and the process is underway.”

Forest officials said it was confirmed that both tigers had consumed meat of the wild boar. “The scene of the crime is just about 100m to 200m from agricultural fields. The local investigation and post-mortem were carried out as per the SOP. Samples were collected to ascertain the cause of death,” said Govekar.

“The surrounding area of the sanctuary has been known for hunting of herbivores using certain material, including poisonous chemicals.”

The forest department has also found the carcass of a Common Indian Civet.

As per the NTCA protocol, a committee comprising forest officers, veterinarians, independent experiment members and a representative from NTCA has been formed to examine the cause of the deaths.

Read more: No special tag for Maharashtra’s tiger corridor, danger of mining lurks around

“Two dog squads have been called from Tadoba and Pench to track the suspects. Samples of both tigers have been collected and will be sent for toxicological, forensic and histopathological investigation to the Regional Forensic Laboratory in Nagpur,” said Govekar. “Meanwhile, a detailed investigation will follow where locals from Nimgaon village, close to this area, will be interrogated. If foul play is confirmed, villagers will be prosecuted.”

“The entire incident needs to be investigated thoroughly and culprits need to be taken to task,” said Nitin Desai, director, central India, Wildlife Protection Society of India.

First Published: Dec 31, 2018 23:58 IST