MYSURU: A tiger which was found dead in Kundkere range of Bandipur forests on Sunday is believed to be Prince, the celebrity big cat which had attracted thousands of tourists.
The dead tiger's stripe marks and those of Prince match 90 per cent, according to Forest Department. The forest authorities said they will carry out a combing operation for 4-5 days from Wednesday to confirm whether it is Prince or not.
T Heeralal, Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, said tiger stripes are a unique identity based on which they suspect that the dead tiger could be Prince. The was found dead in Kalkere range which is the extended territory of Prince.
Prince, aged around 12 years, rose to fame a few years ago due to its unusual characteristics - calm, tourist-friendly, posing for photographs for long time and not charging at or shying away from humans.
"The big cats are usually shy and run away on seeing humans. But Prince was different. That's how, it became so popular in the forest which has a large density of tiger population," said Heeralal.
Conservationists studying tigers in Bandipur had sighted Prince sleeping near a water hole a few years ago. Much to their surprise, it did not run away or charge at them. Instead, it returned to sleep after seeing them. That was how it became popular.
Lensmen from all over the state and outside used to make a beeline to capture Prince, said to be one of the most photographed tigers of the country. Its territory spread over a 40-50 km radius and was often found near Mangala dam, Moorkere, Ministerguchchi, Wesley Circle and Somayyanakatte.
About six months ago, Prince was found limping due to a wound in its right foreleg. It was this wound which is said to have led to its end because of its inability to hunt. The death of the tiger was not because of territorial fighting, sources said.
The suspicion that the dead animal could be Prince has come as a rude shock for Bandipur forest staff and tiger conservationists. Heeralal said it's a big loss for them and they are keeping their fingers crossed hoping to see him alive.
With the death, the number of tigers which died in the state in the last three months has gone
up to 11.