Acting on a tip off, the forest sleuths recovered the pelt that was hidden in a rocky terrain in Tithimati forest. The spot is 3km inside Hunsur-Virajpet road. The officials led by DCF Mohan Kumar searched Devamachi reserve forest area and dug out the pelt. It is valued at Rs 4 lakh. The tiger’s pelt is located some 10km outside the Anechowkur range in Nagarahole national park.
Field director (project tiger) BJ Hosmath told The Times of India that they are investigating whether the tiger was poached. “As of now, we don’t know the reason for the death of the tiger. We are not ruling out poaching and are probing from that angle too,” he said.
Part of the reason for the officials to suspect foul play is the fact that they are not able to decide for sure how the tiger has died. But, there are no bullet injuries either.
Recently there are two cases in the tiger belt where big cats were killed using poison. Though the tiger is believed to be 14 years of age, the officials are not sure and are suspecting involvement of anti-social elements. “We are not sure of the age of the tiger looking at the pelt,” Hosmath stated.
The tip off was almost exact as the caller told the officials that the pelt is hidden at a certain beat, which the field staff are well aware of.
A wildlife activist, who has worked extensively in tiger reserves in Karnataka, said the life expectancy of the tiger is around 10 years in the wild, while it is around 14 in captivity. Recently, a tigress, which was tracked closely by the field staff died; she was eight years old. She was healthy but died suddenly, he stated. “The tigers are under stress, both from the human intervention and territorial,” he explained.
If the tiger has died due to old age at Tithimati, which the anti-social elements have found and skinned to sell its parts, it is also a crime, an official stated.
A vet said it is difficult to establish the cause of death of the big cat merely by investigating the pelt. “Even forensic experts cannot do that. The suspects hold the key to know the cause of its death,” the vet, who didn’t wish to be named, explained.