A tigress and its three cubs were poisoned by farmers in Mhadhei Wildlife Sanctuary for killing their cattle, confirmed forest officials. Three farmers have been arrested under the Wildlife Protection Act.
The three carcasses were found in two consecutive days by a search team of wildlife lovers and forest staff, after the first cub was found dead on Sunday, 70 per cent of the body decomposed, and all its nails missing. The bodies of the tigress and a second cub were found on Tuesday night, and the last cub at 3 pm Wednesday, confirmed people in the search team.
All the carcasses were found inside the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in North Goa’s Sattari taluka. All the bodies were decomposed and post mortem is underway on the last three, though officials confirmed all four were poisoned. “The stench is how the carcasses were found,” said chief wildlife warden Santosh Kumar.
After the first carcass was found Sunday, wildlife authorities were alerted by the villagers, and Kumar’s office made an urgent requisition to the Centre for drone cameras. “The camera traps earlier had recorded a tigress with the cubs. Since two carcasses had been found, and with one being a case of poisoning, we needed to see from high above if there were any more carcasses. This is very unfortunate,” Kumar added.
By Wednesday morning, 30 of Kumar’s staff members had formed teams and scrambled across the thick bushes of the ghats to hunt for any “stench of death”.
The last tiger survey by the Wildlife Institute of India had accounted for four adult tigers in Goa. While environmentalists have often pointed to “possibilities of more than four tigers”, as the tiger corridor crosses the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, the state has not made any effort to either look for more evidence or ensure better natural infrastructure for the tiger population to grow. This also comes after protests from the mining communities, which have always cried foul of tigers encroaching mining pockets, said environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar.
Kumar claimed that despite the four deaths, the adult tiger population in the state could still be four. “The tigress with her cubs was an addition pointed by cameras early in 2019. The cubs were young, which means the census in 2017 couldn’t have counted them. So our official figure still is four adult tigers.”
After the carcasses was spotted Tuesday night, it was found prudent to “seal the spot and ensure the forensics reached the spot at the first light”, said Kumar. In the morning, forest staff mapped an area of one square kilometre to look for any more casualties.
“The second and the third carcasses were found within a rough distance of one kilometre,” said Kumar. The locals have also, on their own, formed a small group and are looking for clues.
The Chief Minister had earlier asked for a probe, which is also underway, and the state police has now intervened.
On Sunday, after the first carcass was found, a probe was initiated, with the postmortem pointing to “inconclusive evidence”, though circumstantial evidence pointed to poisoning. In the vicinity were remnants of two dead porcupines, making officials wonder if the tiger had attacked or eaten the porcupines — which could also have been poisoned. The other “crucial clue” raising a red flag was that all the nails of the tiger were missing.
The last time Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary was in the news was when Goa asked for no water to be diverted to Karnataka from the Mhadei basin since it would directly impact the tiger and other animals in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, apart from it being the lifeline of the state.
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