Tigers in Nilgiris: A Crisis Unfolding
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The Nilgiris district, known for its lush landscapes and rich biodiversity, is currently facing a grave concern: the unexplained deaths of tigers. A total of 10 tigers, including six cubs and four adults, have died since mid-August. This situation has raised numerous questions about the causes of these deaths, whether they are due to natural causes or the work of poachers, and what measures are being taken to address this crisis.
The Mysterious Deaths
The deaths of these tigers have occurred in various incidents and locations:
- Cub Deaths: The first incident involved the death of six tiger cubs in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Forest officials suspect that these two-week-old cubs may have succumbed to starvation or umbilical infection.
- Adult Tigress: An adult tigress in the Naduvattam Range died due to suspected injuries from a fight with another animal.
- Second Adult Tiger: Another adult tiger in the Kargudi forest range of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve also died from suspected injuries sustained in a fight.
- Two Sub-Adult Tigers: These tigers, found in Udhagai South Range near Avalanche, had different fates. One had injuries suggesting a fight with another animal, while the other, a larger male, was found dead nearby without apparent injuries. Further investigation revealed that the larger tiger had preyed upon a cow, leading to the arrest of a man who had poisoned the cow in retaliation.
- Four Tiger Cubs: The most recent incident involved the discovery of four dead tiger cubs in Kadanad in the Nilgiris North Range.
Concerns Among Conservationists
Conservationists are deeply concerned about several aspects of this crisis:
- Poaching: Earlier in the year, the forest department arrested poachers from Rajasthan who had allegedly poached a tiger near Avalanche, not far from where these recent tiger deaths occurred. This raises fears of renewed poaching activities in the area.
- Missing Tigresses: The inability of the forest department to locate the mothers of the six deceased tiger cubs in Siriyur and Kadanad has sparked concerns about the well-being of these tigresses.
Possible Reasons for the Deaths
One theory proposed by senior forest department officials is that the high tiger density in the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole complex of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is pushing tigers into surrounding habitats. This increased competition is leading to fights and, ultimately, tiger deaths. The Nilgiris Division currently hosts a significant tiger population of 54 individuals, a figure that continues to grow.
Conservationists stress the need to regenerate degraded habitats, allowing the tigers’ prey, such as Sambar, spotted deer, and the Indian gaur, to re-colonize these areas, reducing human-animal conflicts.
To address concerns of potential poaching, the forest department plans to establish anti-poaching camps in six forest ranges surrounding the Mukurthi National Park. Additionally, annual monitoring of tiger populations in the Nilgiris Forest Division will begin, recording population size and individual range, among other parameters. Increased patrols around key tiger habitats are also being implemented in Mukurthi and Mudumalai.
As the mysterious deaths of tigers in Nilgiris continue to unfold, a coordinated effort is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of these majestic creatures and the preservation of their natural habitats.