A tiger pinned down by an earthmover, after it was possibly overdosed during attempts at tranquillisation in the forests adjacent to the Corbett tiger reserve, died soon after it was captured. On Thursday morning, a group of migrant labourers working at a stone quarry on the Dabka river went inside the forests of Belpadav range in the Terai West Forest Division where they chanced upon the male tiger. The big cat attacked Bhagwati Devi, 33, and her father-in-law Lakhpat who tried to help her. Both of them died on the spot. The Dabka and Kosi rivers are heavily mined, mostly illegally, for stone which puts enormous pressure on the natural ecosystems and the wildlife habitat in and around Corbett tiger reserve.
According to local forest sources, the quarrying lobby put pressure on the forest officials to immediately remove the tiger as the panic-stricken migrant labourers threatened to abandon work and flee. The forest personnel swung into action with tranquillising guns and used an earthmover from a local quarry to pin down the tiger even before the drugs took effect. The big cat was injured in the process and died while being transported to the Nainital zoo the same day.
“The animal was probably overdosed. Perhaps they tried to sedate it twice as it did not go down immediately. The tiger also suffered spinal injuries, possibly from the JCB. It is difficult to tell if it died due to overdosing or injuries or both,” said one of the medical staff associated with the forest department on condition of anonymity.
Neither Kahkashan Naseem, divisional forest officer, Terai West, nor D S Khati, chief wildlife warden, Uttarakhand was available for comment.
Debabrata Swain, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, said that an expert fact-finding team would be formed and sent to Ramnagar on Monday. “We will find out why the Standard Operating Procedure was not followed. There is always pressure in a situation of conflict but we cannot use an earthmover to catch a tiger,” he told The Sunday Express.