Chennai, Sep 19: Wildlife conservationists and activists have demanded a detailed probe into the death of 9 tigers in the forest ranges of the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. These deaths have occurred since August 16.
Satheesh Ram, wildlife conservationist and researcher based out of Theni in Tamil Nadu, told IANS that “Nine tigers including 5 cubs and 4 adults dying in a span of a month is serious and grave. The Tamil Nadu forest department must conduct a detailed probe into it and should not rest with mere superficial findings. Project Tiger which was launched in the country in 1973 has led to the big cats still roaming and roaring in Indian forests and such a position should not be changed. We demand stringent action if any lapses are found.”
On August 16 and 17, the carcasses of 4 tigers were found in different forest ranges of the Nilgiris district. On August 16 the workers at a tea estate in Mudimandhupirivu near the Naduvattam forest range detected the carcass of an adult tiger. A postmortem was conducted which revealed that it was a seven year old female tiger that died due to a territorial fight with another big cat.
On August 17, the carcasses to two tiger cubs and that of another adult tiger were detected in the nearby forest areas.
On September 9, the carcasses of two adult tigers were found near the Avalanche dam in the Nilgiris. This took the number of tiger deaths to 6.
Forest department officials had during routine patrolling found a dead tiger floating in the river channel beside the Emerald dam. Ten metres from where this tiger was found, the carcass of another tiger was detected in the slush near a river channel.
The District Forest Officer of the Nilgiris forest division, S. Gowthaman while speaking to media persons said that there was circumstantial evidence that the tigers were poisoned. This was after the field staff of the forest division located a dead cow near the carcasses of the tigers.
The forest department conducted a detailed postmortem and found that one of the tigers had died due to a territorial fight – maybe with the other tiger but the other one had insecticide poison in its viscera. A detailed probe found a local farmer living near the forest border to be the culprit.
He confessed that his cow was found dead a few days ago and on inspection it was found that the cow was killed by a predator. He laced the body of the cow with an insecticide as revenge to kill the predator. One of the tigers had eaten a portion of the carcass and had died after consuming the insecticide as well.
On September 17, the forest department found a dead tiger cub in the Nilgiris forest area. The department immediately launched a search and found three tiger cubs out of which two had died and one was alive. The cub was rescued and put in the safe custody of the forest department.
The department has conducted a detailed postmortem but the reports are yet to come. The department officials clarified that a tigress would have abandoned its cubs if they were not feeding properly.
Conservationist Kumaraswamy told IANS that there has to be a detailed probe and the statements of the forest department officials must be cross checked and verified.
He demanded that the forest department search for the mother tigress to clear the doubts about whether the tigress was killed by poachers.
The recent data of the tiger census revealed a healthy figure of 306 tigers in the state in 2023 as against a meagre 76 tigers in 2006. However conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts say that the Tamil Nadu government must order a detailed probe into the 9 tiger deaths in about one month.