Latest twist in tiger-killing case: WII says samples sent not of tiger
TNN 13 September 2009, 05:46am IST
PANAJI: The tiger killing case continues to get more curious by the day. In yet another twist, a preliminary report from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, which conducted a forensic test on the samples of tiger bones and remains recovered by forest department officials from the site of the alleged killing of a tiger in Keri in February this year, indicate that the samples do not belong to a tiger.
While forest officials and guards who had achieved a breakthrough in finding the tiger carcass almost three months after it had been killed and had been confident they were tiger remains are noncommittal about the preliminary report, chief conservator of forests of Goa’s forest department, Shashi Kumar, told TOI on Saturday, “Based on the samples sent, the remains are not of a tiger as per the Wildlife Institute of India’s investigation.” “The preliminary report states that blood samples found on some leaves are also not of a tiger,” the CCF added explaining that the configuration of the teeth which were sent to the WII also does not match that of a tiger.
Kumar further said that since the WII was asked specifically to confirm whether they were tiger’s remains, the institute has not named the animal to which the samples belong. Pointing out that the forensic report was “only preliminary in nature”, Kumar said that it will not be appropriate to comment at this stage as the report is yet to be analyzed further.
Meanwhile, speaking to TOI, Amrut Singh of the Animal Rescue Squad, who had witnessed the recovery of the remains of the tiger carcass at Keri, expressed surprise at the WII preliminary report. “I had seen the spot and we had identified it after comparing the photo that appeared in TOI’s April 13 edition and the landmarks in it and the position in which the tiger was found. The fur stuck to the boulder showed the place the tiger was leaning on the rock.”
Stating that the evidence of the tiger killing was “too strong”, he alleged that the forensic report may have been manipulated. “I have seen the tiger remains and I feel they should be sent to another laboratory and the matter handled in a transparent manner or we will have to suspect that matters are not being handled right.”
Rajendra Kerkar, who reported the story in TOI, expressed doubts that the report may have been tampered. “The delay of three months in sending a preliminary report itself raises questions,” he said.
Though the tiger was allegedly killed in the last week of February, a breakthrough in finding the remains of the tiger carcass in the cashew plantation (survey number 135/1) of Keri was achieved after prolonged rounds of interrogation on May 30 and through a thorough search of the site of the killing. The site was identified through eyewitness statements and the use of an enlarged copy of the photograph carried in TOI, alongside Kerkar’s report, to compare and ascertain the landmarks on the site of the tiger killing.
Officials had made considerable progress in the case after the finding of the remains though initially some officials were in denial mode due to lack of evidence and people’s non-cooperation. “We are now confident of solving the entire case and catching the accused with the evidence collected so far at the site and interrogation of suspects and others. Bits and pieces of the case are falling into place,” a forest department official had said at the time.
Using sniffer dogs, forest guards had found some major bones, two toe pads and one jaw pad distinct to a tiger and a lot of fur stuck on boulders near the mango tree shown in the TOI photograph. “This helps further confirm that the tiger was killed and the remains are of its carcass,” sources had said. One of the broken leg bones may be a femur cut into pieces, they had said. The claws had been removed and the bones broken into pieces and charred to destroy evidence, they added.
The remains were found on a small patch of what appeared to be burnt ground on the boundary of a cashew plantation belonging to an influential person of the area. Around seven square metres of the burnt patch were telltale signs, which indicated that it was a serious case of destroying evidence as the accused tried to break the remains of the carcass bones into small pieces. The progress in the case had vindicated the TOI report on a tiger being poached. Keri villagers had also told TOI that the animal had been roaming around human settlements, which had unnerved residents enough for someone to lay a trap.