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Tiger chopped and packed in bags in ‘alert’ reserve

Nagpur, May 18: The carcass of a tiger, its paws, head and vital organs missing, was found outside a tiger reserve in Maharashtra today, serving a grisly reminder on the audacity of poachers despite a high alert in the state.

The mutilated carcass was found just outside the Tadoba Andhari reserve at Chandrapur district in eastern Maharashtra. The body had been chopped, the skin and tail left behind. But the paws, head, genitals and internal organs, such as the liver, intestines, kidneys and the heart, were missing.

In Borda village, barely 500m from where the carcass was spotted, the rest of the body parts were found stuffed in gunny bags and dumped near the Chandrapur-Mul state highway. The village is just outside the Tadoba reserve buffer zone, a 1,100sqkm area that protects the core reserve of 625sqkm.

Some forest officials said the poachers may have set an electric trap to maim the tiger at some other spot and then brought the animal to the fringes of the reserve to kill it. It is unnatural for tigers to roam so near human habitation in the buffer zone, they said.

The Maharashtra government has announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh to anyone who gives information on the poachers but one wildlife activist called for setting up a special investigation team.

“It can’t be tolerated,” said conservationist Kishor Rithe of the Satpuda Foundation, a group that does wildlife awareness campaigns in central India. He demanded that the government set up an SIT to probe the tiger death and nab the poachers. “You can find the poachers within a week if there’s a will,” Rithe said.

What has infuriated wildlife activists is that the poachers struck just two days after a high alert was issued following specific intelligence that a gang, belonging to a particular community in Madhya Pradesh, was out to kill 25 animals to meet a contract for tiger parts in Southeast Asian countries.

The state forest department is yet to crack an earlier incident of poaching on April 27 when an adult tiger was killed and another critically injured inside a jaw trap in the Tadoba buffer zone.

Stung by the April 27 incident, the state forest department announced several measures, such as funds to develop an intelligence network, a reward scheme for local informers, appointment of forest guards under the Special Tiger Protection Force and increased surveillance.

“We have asked forest authorities for 100 per cent monitoring of water holes in tiger reserves. We have taken up advertisement and an information campaign to tell locals about the situation and have promised rewards for information on poachers,” Pravin Pardeshi, the principal secretary in the state forest department, said recently in Mumbai.

Today’s incident showed that the poachers were emboldened as investigations into the April 27 incident had been unsuccessful, activists said.

India has lost 32 tigers in the past four months, of which 14 are feared to have been killed by poachers, Jayanthi Natarajan, the minister for environment and forests, said in New Delhi earlier this week on the sidelines of the first meeting to review the implementation of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme.

Sabri Zain, the campaign director for Traffic International, mentioned at the meeting that sizeable rich populations in China and Vietnam eat tiger meat and drink tiger bone wine because it gives them a special status in society”.

Tadoba’s tiger population has risen in the past year, according to foresters, from 53 last year to 69 this year. Tickets for entrance to the reserve have to be booked at least a month ahead, especially in summer when sightings are almost certain.