Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve: The death of Rajbahra Tigress and her cub puts a question mark on Tiger conservation in Madhya Pradesh

Lalit Shastri

Ill-fated T42 of Bandhavgarh- The last kiss (Photo above and featured image by Dr Kapil Mishra)

There is no end to poaching and tigers continue to die under mysterious circumstances in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh. The latest case of tiger death has been reported from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

T42 Rajbahra tigress, popularly called Solo, and one of her cubs have died under mysterious circumstances in Bandhavgarh. According to available reports, two of her cubs have gone missing. People in this area have not ruled out the involvement of poachers and hunters in this case.

The park management had been informed by some tourists and it was also reported by the media that the tigress that has now been killed was moving around the Sehra Maidan with her cubs when a large number of vehicles carrying tourists, including children, had converged at the same spot. Due to excessive disturbance, the tigress left Sehra Maidan and went with her cubs towards Mahaman village.

Sources have informed that the tigress and her cubs were forced to leave the core area as there was excessive tourist pressure, which was much above the carrying capacity and in gross violation of Supreme Court orders. The problem was aggravated further as some crew was allegedly involved in filming the Tigress with her cubs and this was being done clandestinely with the involvement of the Park personnel.

Notwithstanding reports that a number of elephants and park personnel had been deployed for patrolling of the area, it is still a matter of investigation whether or not adequate arrangements were made by the Park management to beef up the monitoring activity to track the movement of the Tigress and her cubs after they got information that the big cat, along with her cubs, had left the core area due to human pressure and was near a village. Also questions are being raised when it comes to complying with the mandatory carrying capacity rule.

A three-year-old tigress was also found dead during the night of 23 September in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Park authorities had declared territorial fight as the cause of this death. Earlier in April, three more tiger deaths were reported from the same habitat.

The headless tiger of Panna

In the first fortnight of August this year, a tiger (Panna 123) had died under mysterious circumstances in the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

The postmortem report categorically states that the head along with the scrotum and Penis had been removed with some sharp weapon after the animal’s death. There has been no follow up enquiry in this matter.

Since April this year more than half a dozen tigers have died under mysterious circumstances in Madhya Pradesh but efforts to address the issue are totally missing. The tragedy is that almost every time when a tiger gets killed, the Wildlife wing of the State forest department undermines the threat to tigers by hiding the truth and planting infighting stories.

Postscript: Tourism pressure in all the tiger reserves has gone down due to COVID. Besides Bandhavgarh has always been an area with heavy and unruly tourist traffic. The veteran tigresses are used to this chaos, it is being pointed out. The female (Solo), who was almost 10 years old, and her cubs were getting disturbed by tourists – is an argument that is being contested by some wildlife experts. They are pointing out that she might have shifted away due to the arrival of a new male in her territory. The staff of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve should investigate this and also whether or not filming was being done and there was excessive rush of tourists on a particular day as per available reports.

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