Afour-year-old tigress was found dead in Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR), 11 days after a male tiger was also found dead in the enclosure. The tigress had given birth to two cubs in May one of who is missing now. She is feared to have died two to three days ago.
Named MT-2, the wild cat was said to be in sound health and a post-mortem report is still awaited, Dr Tejendra Reyad of MHTR said. The other four-year-old male tiger was named MT-3 and was found dead on July 23.
The post-mortem is likely to be done on Tuesday morning.
The two deaths in less than a fortnight have raised concerns among wildlife experts who are now questioning the state forest department’s monitoring process of the wild animal in the area.
Tapeshwar Singh Bhati, a wildlife enthusiast and member of MHTR advisory committee, said, “It is unfortunate that the forest department has learnt no lesson from MT-3 which was found dead on July 23. The death of MT-2 in mysterious conditions further exposes the negligent and careless approach of the forest department towards the safety of wild animals in MHTR.”
He called for a high-level inquiry into the matter.
The previous BJP-led government had hurriedly created MHTR and constructed an enclosure to house two tigers which National Tiger Conservation Authority had strongly objected to as it felt it was like creating a safari and was bound to interfere with the natural wild behaviour of tigers, inside it or outside.
After the death of two tigers, the sole male tiger MT-1 that stays in the enclosure and female MT-4 that is currently outside the reserve area are the only ones left in MHTR apart from the two cubs.
In April 2018 the MHTR had shifted tiger MT-1, who had ventured outside Ranthambore Tiger Reserve searching for new territory to the enclosure. In December, tigress MT-2 was also shifted there to give him company. In February, a third tiger MT-3 walked 150 kilometres from Ranthambore Tiger reserve in search of his missing companion, MT-2. His arrival outside the enclosure made MT-2 shun MT-1 and look for MT-3.
Officials released a fourth tigress MT-4 outside the enclosure in April 2019 to distract MT-3 from MT-2 but it did not help for months. Tigers refused forced cohabitation until May this year. In May end, officials spotted two cubs with MT-2, born from MT-1.
So far, there are no reports of MT-3 and MT-4 mating but officials are worried about safety of cubs if born to MT-4.
Right now, the tiger inside and tigress outside are without a companion when ideally, a male tiger should have two tigresses. A skewed sex ratio has adversely affected the state’s all three tiger reserves. Sariska, where the first tiger reintroduction of India took place, has only one mature tiger for eight tigresses. Ranthambore has one tiger for one tigress. Some experts had strongly objected to the creation of MHTR through relocation until the desired number of tigers were shifted to Sariska first.
Top officers from Jaipur rushed to Mukundra following the death of MTR-2 even as BJP protested against the deaths.
Officials said they await post-mortem report before concluding about the cause of death of the tigress which has injuries on the body. ” Perhaps MT-1 killed her and probably the cub too,” says one official but that is an easy conclusion. The post-mortem of MT-3 had indicated the kind of deposits inside the body that pointed to tiger preying on cattle instead of wild prey base. There has been also an issue of poor prey base at Mukundra and inadequate expertise at MTR.
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has expressed his grief over the death of the tigress and termed the death of two tigers within a short period very unfortunate and recommended a high-level inquiry into the death of the two wild animals in MHTR.