Yesterday afternoon (1st September 2008) the carcass of a tigress was found in the Guda area, that lies at the southern end of the Ranthambore national park. This tigress was known as the Guda female (see image below) and was over 10 years old – an old age for wild tigers – and had two cubs that would slightly younger than a year in age. The cubs are missing and even as I write this the forest department officials are trying their hardest to find the two cubs.
According to the forest department sources the carcass of this tigress was found in the early afternoon yesterday in a highly decomposed state. She was probably dead for over two days. The forest department officials cremated the body after conducting an autopsy. The autopsy report is yet to be released and probably never will be, at least the likes of me will never see it.
It is being made out by official sources (and the national media has really lapped it up) that she died in a “territorial fight” with another tiger. The Press Trust of India (PTI) newline says “Rise in Tiger population in Rajasthan’s Ranthambore Sanctuary seems to have given rise to “territory wars” among the predators…………………….. the Ranthambore national park, spread over 400 sq km is busting with robust tiger population. As per a 2007 census, the number of stripped animals have increased from 25 in 2005 to 32 last year. The figure excludes cubs, whose number is estimated to be around 14.”
I would like to clarify the following:
1. The Ranthambhore national park is spread over an area of 282 square kilometers and not 400, as PTI (India’s leading new agency claims – come on guys get your facts right).
2. The official census data of 2005 claimed 26 tigers in Ranthambhore and not 25. The real figure at that time was 13 adults and 5 cubs (all below the age of 6 months).
3. The census figures for last year were 32 (released early last year) and this census was the most exhaustive one ever undertaken. This figure of 32 included all the cubs. After these figures were released 8 more cubs were born and two of these (the cubs of the Guda tigress) are missing.
4. The tiger numbers have definitely increased in Ranthambhore, in fact they bounced back from a near calamity. But Ranthambhore is not (by any standard) “busting” with tigers. Ranthambhore national park and the two adjoining areas where the tigers spread to (the Sawai Man Singh sanctuary and the Sawai Madhopur sanctuary” can easily accommodate over 40 adult tigers. This was the number that existed in 2001. Right now there are about 22 (I may be off by 10% plus or minus) adults and that is not “busting” at all.
Rajasthan’s leading regional Hindi newspaper – Rajasthan Patrika – also adds that the forest department is not ruling out death due to poisoning and had sent the viscera for investigation into this angle. This is really interesting.
The area around Guda and further south (outside the national park – where there is little protection for wild life) of it is the beginning of the “Ranthambhore tiger death zone” – I mean that’s where 15 or more tiger have disappeared in the last 4 years. There are a few “forest unfriendly” villages in that area and few large settlements of former hunting gathering tribes (Mogiyas, Bagariyas and Kanjar).
The Guda tigress shares her area with a few villages. Her territory overlaps with that of two male tigers – one is her son from the last litter and the other is the father of her new litter (the two cubs who are missing right now). It is highly unlikely that she was killed in a fight with one of these two tigers. Her present mate would not fight her and her son dare not.
I don’t know how she died but I would bet my cameras (the most precious possession that I have) that it was not because of a territorial fight.