Tiger found dead outside Kaziranga
Naresh Mitra, TNN 19 September 2009, 11:14pm IST
GUWAHATI: A tiger was found dead outside the Kohra forest range of Kaziranga on Saturday, sparking suspicions of revenge killing by angry residents of adjoining villages. With this, the big cat death toll in the national park rose to three this year.
The carcass was spotted beyond the park boundary, near an upcoming resort in the Mohpara area. The tiger was aged between seven and eight and may have died around two days ago. Forest officials ruled out a poaching bid, for the corpse had not been mutilated and no organs were missing. "We found the ninth rib of the tiger broken and partially calcified. We are waiting for the report on the exact cause of death," said Kaziranga divisional forest officer D D Gogoi.
Over the past week, tigers have frequently lifted livestock from the villages outside Kaziranga, with a tiger killing a domestic pig in the park's Sildubi area on Saturday itself. This has given credence to the perception that the animal had died in a revenge attack.
Forest officials also hinted that it might have been killed by a rhino. In fact, a few days ago, a big cat had attacked a rhino calf in the Bagmari area of Kaziranga, they recalled. "Probably, the tiger suffered grievous injuries in the attack by a rhino while attempting to kill the calf. One of its ribs has been found broken. But until we get the post-mortem report, it is difficult to say how it really died," a forest official said.
Veterinarians from the Bokakhat-based Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) conducted the post-mortem and collected samples from the carcass for further tests. "The preliminary findings indicate that the tiger might have died of infection following the fracture of the ninth rib on the right side. The infection also spread to the lungs and has showed the development of emphysema. Emphysema is a chronic respiratory disease caused by over-inflation of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. It declines lung function and causes breathlessness," said CWRC veterinarian Phulmoni Gogoi, who conducted the post-mortem.
In all, 12 tigers have died in Kaziranga since November 2008 something which has prompted the state government to start the process of setting up tiger foundations. The aim is to ensure foolproof protection for big cats. Though the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau did not find direct involvement of poachers in those tiger deaths, wildlife conservationists warned that it was only a matter of time tiger poaching becomes a serious issue like the hunting of rhinos.
Frequent cases of tigers straying out of the park area to prey on livestock has not only heightened their vulnerability as far as revenge killings are concerned, but have also increased the risk of tiger poaching. Unlike rhinos, it is difficult for poachers to kill tigers inside Kaziranga as 65 per cent of the 430 sq km area is grassland. However, wildlife crime experts have said the big cats can easily be targeted when they stray out into human settlements.
Sources said tigers usually land up in poachers' hands once they stray into human habitation, particularly on the hundreds of big and small islands between Orang National Park on the northern bank and Kaziranga National Park on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. Tigers killed outside the protected area hardly get noticed or recorded, and their bodies ultimately end up with illegal traders of wildlife parts, sources added.