Stray tiger hurt or not remains a mystery
9 Feb 2009, 2047 hrs IST, IANS
LUCKNOW: Barely 36 hours after Uttar Pradesh wildlife officials claimed to have "killed" or "seriously wounded" a tiger that has been on the prowl close to human habitats in five districts, experts on the feline's trail have expressed serious doubts about the official claim.
"Apparently, there is no evidence to substantiate the claims of officials that a bullet actually hit the big cat," said G C Misra, former director of Dudhwa National Park, who has been keenly following the tiger since mid-November when it strayed out of its habitat in the forests of Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh's Terai region.
The animal has been giving sleepless nights to Uttar Pradesh wildlife officials for the past three months since it wandered out of its home, and has been on the move across at least five districts of the state, including the state capital here.
Misra was strongly of the view that the "blood trail" mentioned by the officials was also a "misunderstanding".
Returning to Lucknow from a hectic two-day tour of the relatively small forest patch on the border of Faizabad and Sultanpur districts, where the animal was confined for the past fortnight, he told IANS: "Either the injury was very minor and the bullet just scraped the animal's body, or else it was just a false alarm."
Some reports claimed that the bullet had simply hurt the tiger's tail, causing mild bleeding that naturally did not leave any long blood trail.
Wildlife enthusiast and Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board member Kaushlendra Singh also shared Misra's view.
Singh, whose PIL to prevent the killing of the tiger was still pending before the high court here, feels "the entire handling of the stray tiger has been extremely shabby and speaks volumes of the unprofessional approach of the 100-member operation team detailed by the state chief wildlife warden."
The team includes four ace shooters - two with lethal 375 Magnum rifles and two with tranquiliser dart guns.
Chief wildlife warden B.K. Patnaik, however, refutes the charges and asserts, "We have been on the right track all along and it is a fact that the tiger was hit by our shooter P.P. Singh's bullet Saturday afternoon."
According to him, "I do not deny that the injury could have been very mild, but no one can deny that the bullet did not hit the animal; fresh blood was noticed for at least three km inside the forest after which the search could not be carried out on account of darkness following sunset."
"Our men continued combing the forest patch both Sunday and Monday, but sadly there was no trace of the tiger, who has apparently hidden himself under the thick lantana bushes that provide a good camouflage."
"We are not giving up and our teams will get the big cat soon - dead or alive," Patnaik said.