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Foul Play in Recent Tiger Deaths in Panna? National Tiger Conservation Authority Panel to Begin Probe

Representative image.

Representative image.

A tiger’s death is considered as unnatural unless proven otherwise and the tiger reserve authorities are obliged to inform the NTCA of such developments immediately.

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Nikhil Ghanekar

The recovery of a male tiger’s headless carcass and missing private parts in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve has raised eyebrows and led authority to order probe.

Earlier five more tiger deaths were reported in the tiger reserve have added to the mystery.

The incident has prompted National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the apex authority on tiger conservation, to constitute a three-member panel to probe the incidents.

The body of the tiger was found floating in the Ken River (Hinauta range) that flows through the tiger reserve on August 9. The state of the carcass of P-123, the moniker used for monitoring purposes, drew attention of not only the Madhya Pradesh forest department but also the NTCA.

A tiger’s death is considered as unnatural unless proven otherwise and the tiger reserve authorities are obliged to inform the NTCA of such developments immediately.

The administration of the tiger reserve had initially claimed that the tiger found in Ken River had died due to an internecine fight between two tigers. Sources in state forest department as well as NTCA said that the tiger reserve administration didn’t inform NTCA about the recovery, raising questions over non-compliance of standard operating procedure.

Following pressure from wildlife activists and forest officers, the Madhya Pradesh forest department started probing through its Special Task Force (STF), which is currently in Panna reserve.

“We are looking into the matter to probe whether there is involvement of any organized poachers,” said a source from the MP STF.

The autopsy conducted on the tiger’s carcass revealed that it is a clear case of unnatural death and a surgical cut was found near its neck, thus contradicting the ‘internecine fight’ claims made by the tiger reserve administration, sources aware of the autopsy details said.

News18.com tried contacting KS Bhadauria, Field Director at Panna Tiger Reserve, but the efforts failed to elicit a response from the director.

The three-member NTCA panel is expected to begin the probe soon as the investigation was earlier delayed due to the quarantine of one of the panel members. The team comprises of one non-official wildlife expert from Wildlife Trust of India, an officer from NTCA’s Nagpur office and one office of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

Panna Tiger Reserve has witnessed poaching and administrative failures that led to a wipeout of its tiger population in 2008. The poaching had left tiger population with no breeding pairs.

A special investigation team was formed then during the United Progressive Alliance government and it led to the tiger translocation project which led to positive developments. “In the past few months there have been a few tiger deaths in Panna. Panna is the most successful example of tiger reintroduction in the world and therefore any suspicious death taking place there is a matter of serious concern and that is why this team will look into the details of the circumstances under which these deaths have taken place,” said SP Yadav, Additional Director General (Project Tiger) and Member Secretary, NTCA.

“The missing head and private parts are certainly not good signs from a conservation and protection point of view. Though a tiger skin and its bones are usually in demand, private parts are also sought due to belief that it brings good fortune,” a source involved in the probe said on the condition of anonymity.


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