The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has temporarily suspended its inter-state tiger relocation project in Odisha after the state’s forest department found the carcass of a tiger that was relocated to Satkosia Tiger Reserve from Kanha reserve in Madhya Pradesh in June.
“The inter-state tiger transfer project is on hold in case of Odisha,” confirmed Dr Raja Ram Singh, NTCA’s Assistant Inspector General of Forests.
Releasing a statement based on preliminary findings on Wednesday, the forest department said, “A deep lacerated and five-day-old maggot-infected wound was observed on the dorsal neck area of the tiger, which may be the cause of mortality.”
In June, the 195-kg tiger was shifted to revive Satkosia’s dwindling big cat population, which had reportedly come down to two — both of them ageing tigresses. Days later, a tigress named Sundari was also brought in from Bandhavgarh National Park. The shifting of the two felines was part of the first inter-state tiger relocation in the country. The ambitious project, overseen by the NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), aimed to shift a total of six tigers (three of either sex) to boost big cat population in the state.
This is the second tiger death in the state in three weeks. In October, forest officials had found the body of a tiger in Debrigarh sanctuary and the state crime branch is interrogating four alleged poachers arrested in the case.
The forest department said it would conduct a detailed post-mortem and dispose of the carcass through incineration according to NTCA protocol. It said the incident occurred “500 metres from Raigoda-Nuagoda forest road inside the Nuagarh reserve forest of Athgarh Forest Division, which has been proposed to be included in Satkosia Tiger Reserve”.
“At around 1 pm, we received a mortality signal (from the tiger’s tracking collar) and our staff found the carcass,” said Odisha’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Sandeep Tripathy.
While Union Tribal Minister Jual Oram slammed the state government for its “inefficiency” over the death, Odisha’s former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Bijay Ketan Patnaik said, “This obviously tells us about the efficiency of their (forest department’s) administration”.
The Bandhavgarh tigress, Sundari, had sparked tension in Satkosia area after the big cat allegedly killed two people within a month. Local residents had attacked forest officials, torched the department’s property in Satkosia and marched to demand the removal of all tigers in the area. An expert team had to tranquilise Sundari, which is now in an enclosure constructed by the forest department in Angul district’s Raigoda.