I have been busy promoting my new book – Hamir, The Fallen Prince of Ranthambore, and the praiseworthy efforts on the part of the Rajasthan Forest de-department to provide a sanctuary for the tigers here. And then I get the horrifying news of the tragic death of a tigress and her cub at the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
Reports from Bandhavgarh, one of my favourite tiger reserves, said the tigress called ‘Solo’ and her four cubs had been seen near the buffer zone of the Park, a zone between the park and some villages. Villagers on their part have alleged she was responsible for the death of at least twenty domestic animals. Her death is being cited as “mysterious” and a post-mortem is being conducted in these deaths.
A tiger mother and her cub have been killed, possibly poisoned while she was trying to survive and provide for her cubs. There is currently a search being conducted for her remaining litter, who have disappeared. It might be too early to say, but if it’s a case of poisoning, then perhaps the remaining three cubs may have died, too.
On International Tiger Day in July 2020, it was announced that the fifty tiger reserves in India contain nearly three thousand tigers, calling it“a testimony of robust bio-diversity.” And although this is a great statistic, the death of the Bandhavgarh tigers is a great hiccough in the conservation of tigers in the country and a sad reminder of the animal-human conflict. While the tigers reserves are trying to ensure villages are shifted out of the tiger habitats, it’s a long and painful process.
Bandhavgarh itself has many villages abounding the outer perimeter of the park, making conflict inevitable here. Solo’s is not the first mysterious death here.
A mother and her children are killed in cold blood. It shouldn’t matter that they are not human. If this does not evoke emotions of anger, disgust, disappointment, then what will.
It’s a dark day for wildlife conservation in India.