BENGALURU: In the last 45 days, six tigers have died in the tiger reserves of Bandipur and Nagarhole either due to poisoning, territorial fights or attacks by other species albeit smaller. According to forest officials, an adult tigress and a cub allegedly succumbed to death in Nagarhole in attacks by porcupines.
However, wildlife experts and activists say a tiger cannot die so easily in a fight with a porcupine - a rodential mammal with a coat of sharp spines. The 60-70 cm long animal and weighs between 5 and 15kg.
Tigers rarely have a showdown with porcupines unless they are young.
On February 10, one tiger cub reportedly died while trying to attack a porcupine in Machuru of DB Kuppe, Nagarhole. While on February 6, an 8-year-old tigress was found dead in Anechowkur.A senior forest official said, “The injuries on the adult tiger, included piercing of a porcupine quill in the chest, and this may have caused infection and death. One eye was damaged and the tigress may have died due to natural causes.”
According to tiger biologist Dr Ullas Karanth, a tiger cannot die in a fight with a porcupine. He says, “Usually, in a fight with a porcupine, we have seen that the tiger has an eye injury, may have lost an eye and further hurt its paws, thereby leading to a limp. In its inability to hunt over a period of time, the tiger may starve, resulting in its death. Death cannot occur during a fight with a porcupine which is about 10kg while the big cat is easily 250kg.”
Satyendra Tiwari on Tiger Nation, a website for tiger conservation, says in his long observation of tiger behaviour: “I have never seen an adult tiger hunting a porcupine, no matter how hungry it is.”
Wildlife activists call for investigations into the exact cause of death in four of the cases and transfer of park directors. They added that since the carcasses of tigers are found in a decomposed state, one cannot deduce the cause of their death without a probe.
Wildlife activist G Veeresh adds, “Lack of intelligence information collection by park directors has caused tiger deaths in the last few weeks. Reasons for the death are cited without experts’ examining the carcasses properly. Moreover, postmortem reports are never given on time while the cause of death is never identified.”