A Royal Bengal tigress and her three cubs were poisoned and their carcass left to rot inside Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, forest officials have said. The accused, three residents of the local Golavli village, have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act and arrested.
Officials privy to the probe said the accused allegedly poisoned the animals because they had killed a cow and a buffalo belonging to them.
One of the accused is a farmer who owned the cow. The other two are siblings who owned the buffalo. While the three accused have denied their role in the tiger deaths, forest and police officials say the circumstantial evidence points at them.
According to forest officials, the tigress and the cubs hunted down the cow on the night of December 22. Soon after, a buffalo was preyed upon and the tigers ate a portion of the carcass and left the rest behind.
“We went on January 1 to lay the night cameras near the half-eaten buffalo carcass to record the tigers’ presence, but never captured any visuals as the tigers never returned. We suspect the angry farmers sprayed poison on the partly-eaten buffalo carcass and when the tigers returned to finish it on December 30 or 31, they were poisoned,” said an official.
The carcass of one of the cubs was recovered on Sunday. The other carcasses were recovered from freshly dug pits on Wednesday and officials suspect they were hidden in the pits after the first carcass was found.
All the four carcasses were in varied stages of decomposition and forensic tests are being conducted. “The stench is how the first carcass were found,” said chief wildlife warden Santosh Kumar.
The carcasses were found after villagers from the Dangar community, who were inside the forest for a festival, informed a local trekker about the stench and the trekker then alerted forest officials.
Rajendra Kerkar, tiger conservationist and wildlife expert in Goa, termed the tiger killings “brutal”.
“The manner in which they killed the unsuspecting tiger family is never heard and certainly a first in the Sahayadri region. It’s a shameful day for us.”
The last tiger survey by the Wildlife Institute of India had accounted for four adult tigers in Goa, says Kumar. “The cubs were spotted by cameras early in 2019. The census done in 2017 couldn’t have had them,” said Kumar. With the tigress dead, the official figure of tigers in the state now stands at three adults.
Earlier in the day, before the fourth carcass was found, Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, tagged Union Minister Prakash Javadekar in a tweet and sought a detailed investigation under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
“With reference to the two cubs that have been found dead at Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Sattari, I would request Union Minister for Forest Shri @PrakashJavdekar to intervene and send a central team to conduct a detailed investigation into the matter,” Rane tweeted.
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