Sunderbans tiger was shot twice
8 Oct 2008, 1256 hrs IST, Monotosh Chakraborty,TNN
KOLKATA: It may be the first time in two decades that a tiger has been poached in Sunderbans. The carcass of the adult male — with two bullet injuries in its head — was spotted floating in a river by tourists on Monday.
After a post-mortem, the forest department ordered a CID inquiry into “the first such official record of a tiger being poached”. Forest minister Ananta Roy said: “It seems to have been poached. CID’s report will be submitted after Puja.”
But forest officials were unsure whether the killers were hunting deer and had shot the tiger in self-defence.
Sunderban Tiger Reserve field director Niraj Singhal said it could have been killed 2-3 days ago and the killers left in a huff for fear of being nabbed.
However, Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly said: “Everyone knows tigers are poached in the Sunderbans. This tiger carcass , too, would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the tourists.” Forest officials — even after the post-mortem report pointed to bullet injuries in the tiger’s head — said the killers were probably hunting for deer and shot the tiger in self-defence.
Niraj Singhal, field director of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve, was quite sure that “the killers were trying to poach deer that is extremely salable this time of the year” . He said the tiger could have been killed two or three days ago and the killers left it in a huff for the fear of being nabbed. “The guilty will soon be arrested,” promised Singhal.
The carcass, spotted by some tourists on Monday, was brought to the Alipore zoo hospital on Tuesday. There, a team, comprising vets Swapan Ghosh and Sunit Mukherjee and Monoj Maity of Tiger Reserve Forest, conducted the post-mortem.
Atanu Raha, principle chief conservator of forest, felt the tiger could have been killed by sheer chance. “There hasn’t been a single case of tiger poaching in the last 15 years. In fact, we can safely deduce that the forest department has not had any information on tiger poaching over the last two decades,” he said.
According to Sangeeta Mitra, senior project officer of WWF India, records with the Union forest ministry would belie that claim. “The records have been provided by the West Bengal government,” she said.
Quoting from the 2006- ’07 annual report, she pointed out: “A tiger was poached at Pakhiralay on July 30, 2001, and another at Kishorimohanpur in the eastern fringes of the Sunderbans on October 11, 2001.” Records also point to seizure of tiger skins from Jhila in Gosaba in July 2003 and Raidighi in February 2005.
“The state government may argue that the source of the tiger skins was not known. But would it not be rather impossible to find the skins in the Sunderban interiors if the animals had been killed miles away?” wondered Mitra.
Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly said: “Everyone knows that tigers are poached in the Sunderbans. This carcass, too, would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the tourists.”
“The state government’s good intentions notwithstanding, there is zero vigilance for the protection of animals,” said Joydeep Kundu, wildlife activist. Environmentalist Pranabesh Sanyal, too, said: “It is a clear case of poaching.”