Death of tigress remains a mystery

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Death of tigress remains a mystery
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31 Jan 2008, 0256 hrs IST,Neha Shukla,TNN
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LUCKNOW: The post-mortem report of the tigress found dead on Sunday has placed asphyxia, fracture of trachea, brain haemorrhage, trauma and blood loss as the reasons behind the death.
The tigress was found dead near river Gerua in Katarniaghat forest range in Bahraich district.
According to the forest department, an injured tiger was also found at a distance of some 3 kms from the tigress’ body.
“It is a case of infighting,” said MP Singh, director, Dudhwa. January and February being a mating period, Singh said, “It is a case of physical incompatibility between the mates.”
The former forest officials and wildlife experts, however, are divided in their opinion on the matter. And, the opinions they shared, showed there is still a lot to be discovered about tigers. It is also noteworthy that there are clear directives from the Government of India that all tiger deaths are reported immediately with full details.
“Infighting is common between male tigers but between female and male it is a very rare occurrence,” said Gyan Chandra Mishra, former field director, Dudhwa, adding, “I remember one such incident took place in 1974-75 in which a dead tigress was found at some distance from Dudhwa. The post-mortem report showed fractured skull but after that I could not recollect any such incident.”
Experts and former forest officials do not rule out the incident to be yet another manifestation of man-animal conflict. The killed animal being a tigress in fact increases suspicion.
“Tigress in Corbett and Dudhwa fall to food poisoning often as taking care of the cubs restrict them from hunting in the wild. Cattle they feed on could have been poisoned,” added Mishra.
Dudhwa National Park has sugarcane fields around and it is often that tigers venture out of the forest area in the fields in pursuit of prey, attacking livestock and humans. This in turn increases incidence of man-animal conflict in the area. “Most of these cases which appear to be that of infighting are actually manifestations of man-animal conflict,” said Rahul Shukla, a former forest official who has served at Dudhwa.
Experts agreed that there could be other reasons also that lead to death of tigers in the wild. “Eighty per cent of tiger deaths are natural. There are so many reasons behind the deaths and not just infighting. The most important of them, that needs attention, is disease. There are instances where ill tigers have been preyed upon by scavengers,” said Raghu Chundawat, tiger biologist adding, “I do not think the infighting between tigers often leads to death. Tiger deaths need thorough probing and investigation”.
Experts also ruled out the increase in the density of tiger population as the reason behind increasing cases of infighting. “We cannot comment on if the instances of infighting have increased because of increase in density of tiger population at least till the latest census on tigers comes but territorial infighting is a characteristic feature of tigers,” said Tito Joseph of Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).

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