Did Tiger Mahavir die a natural death or fell to poachers’ trap?

Bhubaneswar: In a new twist to the death of tiger Mahavir in the core area of the Satkosia Tiger Reserve, the preliminary investigation by a two-member Central team has reportedly revealed that the big cat died after falling into a snare set by poachers for wild animals, sources said.

The finding is contrary to the claims of Odisha government that the tiger died due to multiple organ failure following a wound on his neck. Citing post mortem report, the forest department officials had claimed that around eight to ten porcupine quills were recovered from the tiger’s stomach along with traces of wild boar hair from stool samples.

However, Dr Amit Mallick, Inspector General of Forest, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), who led the two-member team, and K Ramesh from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have reportedly rejected all the claims of death due to porcupine attack and infighting with another big cat.

The team, in its report submitted a report to NTCA DG Anup Nayak, has reportedly mentioned that Mahavir got trapped in snare or other traps set up for wild boars and might have sustained injuries in neck while trying to set itself free.

Post-mortem report had earlier revealed that Mahavir died of multiple organ failure due to septicaemia caused by the maggot-infested wound in its neck.

“This new report has cleared everything; now the problem should be recognised and we should introspect if we have really put an end to the reasons why the population of the big cat is declining. Besides, the suspected area through which the poachers are suspected to have entered and killed Mahavir should be sealed,” said wildlife expert, Lala AK Singh.

The three-year-old Mahavir was shifted from Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha Tiger Reserve to Satkosia Tiger Reserve here as part of the country’s first inter-State tiger translocation plan in June. The tiger was found dead in the core area of the reserve on November 14.

The tiger was found dead 500 meters from Raigoda-Nuagada forest road inside the Nuagada forest reserve of Athagarh forest division. Initially, the forest officials had claimed that deep laceration and a five-day-old maggot-infected wound was found in the dorsal neck region of the tiger which may have been the cause of death.

It is pertinent to mention here that three pairs of tigers were to be released in Satkosia under the Rs 18-crore project which aimed at increasing the population of the big cat in Odisha.

Two tigers have met such fate and it speaks much about the project, said Bijay Ketan Patnaik, former PCCF (Wildlife), adding that a State would never give tigers to another state which can’t provide protection to the big cat.