Environment group alleges officials’ negligence led to 4 tiger, 20 elephant deaths in TN

Forest Department officials have denied allegations of negligence.
Tiger killed in Annamalai Reserve
Tiger killed in Annamalai Reserve

A study conducted by the United Conservation Movement (UCM), an environmental protection group, has revealed that at least four tigers and 20 elephants in Tamil Nadu have been killed in 2020, allegedly by locals who were attempting to prevent the animals from entering their property. The group alleges that all four tigers were poisoned while the elephants were killed either by poisoning or with fruit bombs, where explosives are placed inside fruits.

According to the environmental group, these deaths occurred on the following dates. On April 8, two tigers were poisoned in Annamalai Tiger Reserve. Two people were arrested after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) intervened. On April 13, a tiger found dead in a virtually dry stream in Avarallah beat, Masinagudi range, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

On September 9, five wild dogs were poisoned in Singara range, Masinagudi, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. And on November 20, a tigress poisoned in Singara range, Masinagudi, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Two cubs were rescued and are being nurtured in the Vandalur zoo, Chennai.

Speaking to TNM, Vijaykrishna Raj who handles Tamil Nadu operation of UCM, says the deaths of the tigers and dholes – a deer also known as wild dog – were tracked on a case-to-case basis by the organisation and that they could have been prevented if the forest department was alert.

“On September 9, five wild dogs were found dead in Singara range, Masinagudi. Forensic reports reveal the dholes had been poisoned. Organophosphorus was found in the viscera of all five dholes. They were actually aiming to kill a tiger. This should have prompted the deputy director of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Srikanth, to improve the protection mechanism,” he says. “He should have been all the more alert as people from the tribal community were bent on getting rid of Tiger 23 (identification number for the tiger) which had killed a woman on August 31, 2020. Callousness led to the death of a tigress on November 20. Again the forensic experts found traces of organophosphorus in its viscera, indicating the tigress, which had cubs, had been deliberately poisoned," he adds.

Organophosphorus (forit/furidon), a pesticide for plants which is also allegedly used to poison animals. The poison is sprayed on the carcass of a deer and left for the animals to eat.

When TNM contacted Deputy Director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Srikanth, he dismissed the allegations. "We got the autopsy report three days back and an investigation is underway into the death of the tiger. We could not have predicted that such a crime would occur. This is man-animal conflict and we are constantly warning residents around the reserve," he says. "As for the death of the tiger in April, that was not due to poisoning," he clarifies.

According to 2018 figures, there are 264 tigers in Tamil Nadu of which 103 are in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

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