Monday, 30th October 2017

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Tigress loses survival-of-fittest battle at Palamau reserve

Forest officials worried as she was the lone tigress at the Palamau Tiger Reserve

By TT Bureau in Ranchi and Daltonganj
  • Published 17.02.20, 12:16 AM
  • Updated 17.02.20, 12:16 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The tigress’ carcass at Palamau Tiger Reserve at Betla in Latehar early on Sunday. One of her wounds has been circled. Picture by Manob Chowdhary

A 14-year-old tigress was found dead, gored possibly by a bison, on Saturday evening at the Betla compartment’s road 2 in the core area of Palamau Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Latehar district, some 170km from Ranchi.

The death has left forest officials worried as she was the lone tigress at the PTR. With her death, only two male tigers are left at the reserve, putting a big question mark on breeding. As per the 2010 census there were 10 tigers here which had reduced to three in 2014.

The deep blunt wound on her stomach suggested that she was overpowered by a horned animal.

The director of PTR, Y.K. Das, said that a hunt for prey proved costly for the tiger. “Basically, her claws and teeth had decayed, she was too old and frail. Basically, she had no stamina to hunt or fight for supremacy,” Das said, suggesting that the wound was made by a horn.

Das said he could not commit on the animal that proved fatal for the tigress.

Ranger Betla Prem Prasad, however, said a bison killed the aged tigress after a fight between the two.

Other local sources said there were many footprints on the forest clearing that suggested a fierce fight between the tigress and at least one bison, but most likely a herd.

A local source told The Telegraph: “The park patrol team noticed the tigress lying on the grass on road 2 on Saturday night. At first look, it seemed that the tigress was having a nap. But the patrol team grew suspicious when it found no movement of the tigress. Then, she was found dead and the deep wound on her belly found.”

A team of vets carried out an autopsy on Sunday.

Secretary of Nature Conservation Society D.S. Srivastava, who is also one of the panellists of the Jharkhand State Wildlife Board, said that the Betla forests had seen such fight among its wild occupants. “Way back in the 1980s here at Betla, there was a similar fight between a tigress and bison where the bison came off worse for it, it was fatally wounded.”

The All India Tiger Estimation (AITE)-2018 released in July 29 last year had claimed no existence of tigers at the PTR. The report claimed that five tigers were spotted in Jharkhand but none at the PTR. Immediately, the state department of forest, environment and climate change contradicted the AITE report, stating they had electronic evidences of the presence of three tigers at the PTR, of which two are male tigers.

Expert eye

Well-known wildlife expert D.S. Srivastava, who had been to Betla to inspect the carcass of the tigress, shared his observations with The Telegraph in Daltonganj on Sunday evening. Excerpts:

  • The tigress had 3 inch long and deep wound in her stomach, most possibly caused by a bison’s horn piercing it
  • It appears that the tigress had her eye on a baby bison, which enraged the herd that mounted a collective assault on her. The tigress was overpowered in the combat
  • The tigress was 8.6 feet in length
  • Her claws and teeth were worn out
  • From her frame, it appeared that she found it hard to get prey
  • A team of vets autopsied it, after which the carcass was not buried but cremated a little away from the location where the tigress was found dead
  • The carcass was burnt with her hide, hair, claws, tail and other assets of the body intact