Bandipur's celebrity tiger, Prince, dies of old age

Officials said that Prince had gone missing two weeks ago and the field staff were looking for him ever since.
Bandipur's celebrity tiger, Prince, dies of old age
Bandipur's celebrity tiger, Prince, dies of old age
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Bandipur’s celebrity tiger, famously known as Prince to tourists died on Sunday in the Kundakere Range of the National Park.

According to Bandipur National Park’s Director, T Heerala, 12-year-old Prince had gone missing for the past two weeks and forest officials had launched a search operation.

“When we found the carcass of a tiger on Sunday morning, we were scared that it might be Prince. On Tuesday afternoon, Prince’s profile on both the Wildlife Conservation Society and our databases matched the dead tiger’s,” Heeralal added.

However, the senior official said that although they are mostly certain that the dead tiger is Prince, the forest officers would continue the search for four more days to be absolutely sure.

The field staff, who were on the look-out for Prince, came across a body in the range’s Lokkare area in the wee hours of Sunday. Senior forest officers had rushed to the spot and a post-mortem was conducted and the body was burnt.

Field staff had taken photographs and collected samples of the decomposed carcass. The post-mortem report revealed that the tiger had died a week ago.

“There were no injuries on the tiger’s body and no signs of fighting. He was an old tiger and died due to old age. The fading stripes on his body when compared with photographs in our database match Heeralal said.

Prince had marked his territory in the Bandipur Range in 2009.

“This is the main area where for ecotourism. Until late last year, prince had retained his territory by killing another tiger. Last year, another tiger, Mahadesha, became a huge threat and adding to the fact that Prince was getting old, his movements were restricted and he also moved away from his territory,” said Ullas Karanth, tiger specialist, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Asia.

Heerilal recalls Prince as being shy in the initial days when he was not used to vehicular movement in his territory. “In the last five years, he had become a sort of celebrity and was really friendly with tourists. Everyone adored Prince and they would spend hours waiting for him in a 18-km area. Many tiger watchers and tiger photographers would set up tree houses in the area and wait for a glimpse of him. But this was only until Mahadesha began lording over Prince’s territory,” He added.

Heerala also recalls Prince’s popularity going up after a video of him bringing down a gaur, went viral on social media in 2013.

The video show Prince attacking the gaur head-on and executing a kill showing off the power of his jaws and also the grip he had over his prey. Dr Karanth said that the first photograph of Prince was captured in Bani Kallare Road in the Hediyala Range on January 16, 2009 and that his image was captured 27 times in total over the years. The last picture was taken on February 4, 2016.

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