This is the second incident in a month and the tiger was probably the last big cat spotted alive in the reserve.

2 tigers killed in 20 days in reserve Is Telangana doing enough to protect wildlifeImage: Twitter/VijaypTOI
news Environment Saturday, January 26, 2019 - 11:57

Kawal tiger reserve in Mancherial has lost two tigers, allegedly to poaching, in a span of 20 days. On Thursday, forest officials along with members of the Tiger End Hunting Association (TEHA), an NGO that works for tiger conservation, recovered the skin of probably the last big cat alive in the reserve.

Kawal tiger reserve in Telangana has been in news for the dwindling number of tigers within the reserves. The tigers that migrate from the adjoining forests of Maharashtra come to Kawal reserve – a large portion of which falls in Adilabad – in search of new territories. Theories suggest that the tigers do not go missing but rather ‘return’ to their home territory. According to reports, since 1996, around 20 tigers have disappeared from Mancherial district.

On Thursday, with the help of officers from the Mancherial forest department, members of Maharashtra based NGO TEHA recovered tiger skin from the house of one Lingaiah, who is a member of a larger gang who was planning to sell the tiger skin. Speaking to TNM, Nandu Pimple, the president of TEHA, said the gang members were local residents of Chennur town and weren’t regular poachers.

“We got information from a middle man asking if we knew anyone who would want to buy the tiger skin. We pretended to be interested in the deal and asked for further details. The gang first insisted on getting the full amount but we told that we cannot pay unless we see the tiger skin. We then agreed to visit Lingaiah at his home and the deal was struck between Rs 15-20 lakh. Meanwhile, we informed the forest officials of Mancherial, and with their help, we busted the gang,” Pimple says.

The tiger skin has been sent to a lab in Hyderabad for forensic analysis. Three accused have been arrested while the gang leader is absconding.

According to members of the NGO, the gang members are not regular poachers or part of any smuggling nexus but villagers who make a living out of agriculture.

“People in the villages often set snares to catch animals like wild boars that destroy their crops. Though it’s not clear if the gang intentionally hunted down the tiger, it is also possible that the tiger fell into one of the traps and villagers eventually decided to sell the skin,” Pimple says. Pimple and his team have been part of five such operations in the past in Telangana.

The Mancherial forest officials faced much criticism after they had announced the arrival of the tiger in the reserve about a month ago. They disclosed the location of the tiger and had said that it was spotted in the Khadem forest range.

Speaking to TNM, Ramalingam, District forest officer (DFO) of Mancherial, confirmed that it was probably one of the last tigers in the reserve seen alive while 4-5 others have been spotted in the neighbouring districts.

“We were on an alert from the past 2 weeks after we got information about the gang selling the tiger skin. This is the second incident in a month. What we suspect is that the tiger fell into one of the traps set by the villagers or chances are also that it got electrocuted touching the live wires the villagers use to kill the wild animals that destroy their crops. Cops are yet to investigate if the gang has any connections with smugglers outside the district,” Ramalingam said.

Considering the increasing cases of poaching, the Telangana government last week announced the setting up of a State Tiger Protection Force (STPF) to protect wildlife. The STPF would be constituted with 112 personnel and would be deployed in Kawal and Amrabad tiger reserve forest areas. There has been no confirmation from when the force would be functional.

“We are working along with the electricity department to avoid instances of laying live wires to kill animals. We will be strengthening security around the reserve and taking strict action against offenders,” Ramalingam added.