A tigress that had strayed out of the Orang National Park in northern Assam about two months back to give birth to at least two cubs, was poisoned to death in near a village about five kms north of the Park on Friday night. The killing took place even as district forest officials were waiting for a cage to arrive from Guwahati to capture her. The authorities meanwhile have launched a search operation to locate the two cubs.
“The tigress had reportedly strayed out of Orang National Park about two months ago. While local villagers complained about the tigress killing domestic animals, we had sent a request to the state PCCF’s office on December 9 for a cage to capture the tigress and send it back to the Park. But even before the cage arrived, the tigress was already dead. Though a post mortem examination is yet to be carried out, we strongly suspect she was poisoned to death,” MK Sarma, divisional forest officer, Udalguri told The Indian Express over the phone.
While the 78.81 sq km Orang National Park is in Darrang district, the tigress carcass was found in a small jungle near village Borobazar in the adjoining Udalguri district. Incidents of villagers of adjoining areas poisoning Orang tigers have occurred several times in recent years. At least 13 tigers of Orang have been poisoned to death in the past decade. Officials in the Orang National Park however were not available for comments.
Dwipen Boro, president of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), who hails from the area where the tigress carcass was found, blamed the authorities for the incident. “We had formally submitted a petition to the Udalguri DFO and also contacted the Park authorities in Orang for taking steps to capture the tigress and send her back to her habitat. The DFO did send a request to the PCCF’s office in Guwahati, but that was the end of it. Had they reacted promptly, the tigress could have been easily saved,” Boro said.
Boro is particularly worried what would happen to the two cubs that are suspected to be hiding in a small jungle close to where the tigress was killed. “Forest officials who have been visiting the area for over a month now, have confirmed some pug marks to be those of at least two cubs. Now that their mother is dead, the cubs are in high risk,” he said.
DFO Sarma said three elephants were being requisitioned to carry out a search in the village jungle to locate and rescue the cubs. “While a search was carried out for about three hours on Saturday, three elephants will be deployed on Sunday to locate the cubs,” he said.
With villages located right on the Park boundary, poisoning of tigers straying out to prey upon domestic animals has been common there. Located about 117 kms north-west of Guwahati, Orang is the smallest of five national parks in Assam, but boasts of having at least 24 tigers counted in the last census carried out in 2013.