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Apathetic officials attempt to cover up tiger cubs’ deaths

The reasons attributed to the death of two tiger cubs in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve has brought to fore the apathy of forest officials regarding the death of an animal, especially a predator, in mysterious circumstances.

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The reasons attributed to the death of two tiger cubs in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve has brought to fore the apathy of forest officials regarding the death of an animal, especially a predator, in mysterious circumstances.

Whenever such an episode comes up, officials with the department of forests and environment claim that animals die in fight over territorial supremacy or due to natural reasons. These reasons are as vague as is the paperwork which supports the claims. A case in point is that viscera reports of several deceased animals taken over the past decade have never been made public.

When in April 2018, the carcasses of two tiger cubs were recovered from the Amand Ki Khad area of Sawai Man Singh sanctuary, in their haste to silence any question, officials claimed the cubs were killed by a male tiger.

“Though it was also mentioned that the viscera report would lead to the exact reason for death, by and large it was maintained that a male tiger killed the cubs. The officials could not identify which male tiger was it which, according to the claims made by them, had killed the cubs,” a forest official at Ranthambhore said requesting anonymity.

The recent finding that the two cubs could have been poisoned to death has rattled the cages of several forest officials who had jumped to the staple conclusion of a big cat killing the small ones. “An investigation into the matter has been ordered. However, we are suspicious anything will come out of the probe,” a former wildlife warden said on condition of anonymity.

Interestingly, over the past decade, several tigers have died or gone missing from the park. However the local officials are clueless about the whereabouts or what befell these felines. “On the outside, everything looks good with the park and how the department functions here. However a closer look is needed if everything has to be set straight here,” the official said. 

Case study I

In 2013, a tiger was found dead in Khandar range of Ranthambhore. Officials rushed to the spot and it was termed that the feline died a natural death. Three months later it was learnt that the tiger had died due to poisoning. Subsequently, a hue and cry was raised within the department however, a forest guard of the particular beat was suspended, only to be reappointed six months later in Sawa Man Singh Sanctuary adjoining Ranthambhore.

Case study 2

The recent case of tiger ST-11’s death to a snare in Sariska is another case where the officials first claimed the accused to be innocent. Since the farmer, who had set the snare, himself confessed that the tiger had died, the officials said that the man had set the snare to save his crops. Later it was realised that such snares were being put in huge numbers around the park to trap animals and hinted at a poaching group being active in the area. 

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