Nagpur: The forest areas in Vidarbha region are fast becoming death traps for the big cats, giving Maharashtra the dubious distinction of the state with highest number of tiger deaths. This year 23 tigers died in the state. Shockingly, this is the sixth tiger death in 33 days in Vidarbha region.
The state’s tally of tiger deaths is followed by neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, which has reported 21 deaths. The official figures of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) make these the 22nd and 23rd tiger deaths in Maharashtra, and the 95th and 96th in the country. Most of the deaths were not due to natural causes.
The 23 tiger deaths also include five killed in last three years by fishermen in and around Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. This figure of five has been recorded in confessional statements of 16 fishermen accused of committing the crime.
The last death had been two days ago, on November 15, when a sub-adult tiger was found dead under mysterious circumstances at Fulzari in Mul range in the buffer zone of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).
On Friday afternoon, two tigers — a male and a female — were reported dead of suspected poisoning in Pusda beat under Paoni range, 82km from Nagpur. The area seems to be vulnerable to tiger poaching as last year on December 21 an adult tigress was found dead in Salai beat in the same range.
Deputy conservator of forest (DyCF) G Mallikarjuna said both tigers were found dead within 150 metre area of a spot where cattle kill has been reported. “The incident seems to have occurred 3-4 days ago. All the body parts of the tigers are intact, and we are probing the poisoning angle,” he added.
Forest guard Arun Githe, who was informed by villagers, reported the incident to forest officials in the afternoon. Immediately, NTCA and PCCF representatives Aditya Joshi and Prafulla Bhamburkar, honorary wildlife warden Kundan Hate, and wildlife veterinarian Dr GM Kadu rushed to the spot.
However, since it was close to darkness, post mortem could not be conducted. Mallikarjuna said the post mortem will be carried out on Saturday.
NTCA protocol requires forest staff to be posted wherever cattle kills are found. But the forest department found this cattle kill four days after the incident, raising questions on patrolling in the area.