5 tiger deaths in 10 days in state, NTCA enquiry reveals lapses
“The number of wild tiger deaths within a matter of days is worrying. We have directed our regional officer to investigate and submit a report at the earliest,” said Anup Nayak, member secretary, NTCA.Updated: Jun 25, 2020, 10:15 IST
Over the last 10 days, five tigers have died in Maharashtra, including four deaths under unusual circumstances. An inquiry into the deaths by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) revealed lapses by the forest department.
“The number of wild tiger deaths within a matter of days is worrying. We have directed our regional officer to investigate and submit a report at the earliest,” said Anup Nayak, member secretary, NTCA.
A parallel internal investigation by the state forest department confirmed carelessness one case. “We have taken action against our staff for negligence in Tadoba buffer. An enquiry is underway in another case in Nagpur,” said Nitin Kakodkar, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife).
On Tuesday, an adult male tiger was found dead in Chatgaon range of Gadchiroli. “The animal was eight years old, and died in an infighting incident with another tiger,” said SR Kumaraswamy, deputy conservator of forest (Gadchiroli).
Hemant Kamdi, assistant inspector general of forests, NTCA and investigating officer for the five deaths said there were no lapses in the Gadchiroli case.
Between June 10 and 14, the putrefied carcasses of three tigers - tigress and her two cubs - were found at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) buffer in Chandrapur. Three arrested locals had confessed to poisoning the tigers.
“There was a delay by the forest department in identifying the carcasses, and lack of seriousness in the entire investigation,” said Kamdi. “The protection regime needs to be enhanced. The tigress’ death was reported next to a road. It was detected late. The carcasses of her cubs, which were lying 200m away, were only detected after three days,” he said.
So far nine tiger deaths have been reported in Maharashtra since January, of which six are from the Tadoba landscape.
Kakodkar said, “One forest guard at TATR buffer has been suspended, and the range forest officer has been issued a show-cause notice. Follow up investigation is underway.”
On June 22, 12 days after being captured for killing five people in Chandrapur, an adult male tiger (KT1) died at Nagpur’s Gorewada rescue centre. The post-mortem of the aberrant tiger revealed possible death due to septicaemia (a bloodstream infection).
Kamdi said, based on his investigation, the exact cause of death was unclear. “The tiger had a 16cm wide and 9cm long abscess (with pus) on his left thigh. It may or may not have died due to septicaemia. Though lab reports will confirm this, the tiger was being treated with medicines used in septicaemia cases. The animal had no corroborative symptoms of septicaemia,” he said.
Officials from the rescue centre said they had not assessed the tiger’s health based on blood reports post-capture. “We failed to collect blood samples as the tiger was extremely aggressive, and tranquilising him could have been life-threatening,” said Nandkishor Kale, divisional manager, Gorewada.
Kamdi said this was noted in the enquiry report. “Identifying the tiger’s condition based on a blood test post-capture could have determined details about when the infection happened,” he said.
“Further action in the Gorewada matter would be undertaken once final lab reports are received,” said Kakodkar.
Meanwhile, the petitioner in the 2019 Avni tigress matter before the Bombay high court (HC), Sarita Subramaniam wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday calling for a judicial enquiry into the tiger deaths.”Healthy tigers are dying under the forest department’s watch. This is deliberate murder by officers, untrained vets, and the inept team at the rescue centre. We have called for the immediate transfer of such officers,” she said.
Wildlife experts were concerned about rising tiger deaths. “Losing five tigers in 10 days is a big issue. From the tiger conservation point of view, the loss of the tigress and her cubs, and poisoning incident so close to a tiger reserve is extremely disappointing,” said Nitin Desai, director (central India), Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Tigress death at Aurangabad zoo, swab samples sent for Covid-19 test
A six-year-old tigress ‘Kareena’ died at the Siddharth Garden and Zoo, Aurangabad, early Wednesday morning. According to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), after the tigress was not eating properly since Sunday, zoo officials collected blood samples and test results showed she was suffering from a kidney ailment. “The animal was declared dead at 5.20 am, and her autopsy report stated that she died due to kidney disease. While her tissue samples have been sent for further analysis to a lab in Pune, we collected samples of her nasal and throat discharge using a cotton swab and sent it for Covid-19 test just as a precautionary measure as per the Central Zoo Authority protocol,” said a senior AMC official.