Calcutta, Aug. 19: Before they could reach the tigers’ mouth, six deer today apparently fell prey to another predator: negligence.
The spotted deer, part of a group of 25, probably died of suffocation while being translocated this morning to the Sunderbans from the Parmadan Deer Park in North 24-Parganas to improve the food supply of tigers.
The animals had been cramped into small, stuffy wooden boxes on a hot and humid day and carried to Godkhali ghat, about 170km from the park, from where they were to be taken to the Sunderbans by launch. The boxes had narrow slits for air to pass. The deer were being taken to the forests to stop tigers from straying into villages and attacking people, forest officials said. There is a dirth of food for the big cats because of rampant poaching, they added.
However, on reaching Godkhali ghat, officials found that six deer “had died in transit”.
Atanu Raha, the principal chief conservator of forests, said the deer could have died because of a number of reasons. “Today was a very hot and humid day. Moreover, there was a delay in transportation and the deer could have suffocated to death,” he said.
“The truck in which the six deer were being taken had got stuck in slush on the Basanti Highway in South 24-Parganas. There was a lot of jerking when the driver was manoeuvring the truck out of the slush. Deer are faint-hearted creatures and the animals could have died of heart failure,” Raha added. He said there was a delay of four to five hours because of the hold-up.
Forest department officials accused the officials transporting the deer of negligence. “The vehicles could have been driven slowly as the road is bumpy. When the truck got stuck in the slush, they could have offloaded the deer before bringing the vehicle out of the mud. Since it was very hot, the animals could have been taken on some other day when the temperature was not so high,” a senior forest department official said.
Forest secretary K.S. Rajendrakumar, however, said the incident “was not very serious”. He promised action if lapses were detected. The remaining 19 deer were taken to the Sunderbans.
Raha said the deer population at the Parmadan park was on the rise and therefore some of them were being taken to the Sunderbans. He said a 20 per cent “casualty rate” during translocation was “not alarming”. “For the past two decades, deer are being translocated to the Sunderbans from the park. The animals are transported in the same manner every year and a few die on the way”, he said.