Tiger rescue operation using JCB had many violations, finds probe

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New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has found several violations by the forest department in a tiger rescue operation that used a JCB machine near Corbett, that left the big cat dead hours later.

Senior officials from NTCA, however, said that the earth-mover machine, which was used to pin the animal down, was not the “specific” reason behind the tiger’s death.

The tiger, starved and aggressive, was tranquilised and pinned down by an earth-mover machine and then captured by the forest department in an operation at a forest near Dabka river after it killed two in a village near Ramnagar in Nainital district on March 16.

The tiger died on its way to the Nainital Zoo from a forest campus in Kaladhungi, Nainital district.

“The fact-finding team report suggested that the tiger did not die due to crush (from the JCB machine), however there were several violations in the operation. There were violations of Wildlife Protection Act and advisories issued by the NTCA,” a senior NTCA official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The report from the fact-finding team, which was also corroborated with the post-mortem report, has been forwarded to the Union Environment Ministry, the official said.

The official said that transferring the animal, which was still under the effect of tranquilisers, from a low altitude area in Ramnagar (400 metres) to a higher altitude (2,000 metres) is another reason behind the animal’s death.

According to the post-mortem examination report dated March 20, the tiger died due to excessive bleeding, hemorrhage, shock and cardiac arrest.

The report also pointed out excessive blood loss due to multiple hemorrhage, starvation, a totally broken mouth cavity and multiple injuries on the nose and limbs. It, however, did not speak of any fractured bones.

The area near Corbett Tiger Reserve, where the seven-year-old male tiger was captured, was being used for mining. According to reports, the forest department was under pressure from the mining lobby to capture the tiger quickly. The JCB machine used in operation was borrowed from the miners.

A court in Uttarakhand on March 28 banned all mining activities in the state for the next four months.

A video of the operation, which went viral, shows the tiger being pinned down using the front jaw bucket of the JCB machine, as the forest department officials rushed to trap and cage it.

According to the rescue team, they had to use the front jaw bucket of JCB to “restrain the movement” of the tiger, which was already tranquilised and surrounded by an “uncontrollable crowd” of the villagers.

“The tiger was scared and that is why it became very aggressive. The operation was started right after it killed two persons within an hour and the villagers were very angry. We had to use the JCB machine because the terrain was very difficult and it would’ve taken another hour to call elephants,” a forest official involved in the rescue operation told IANS declining to be named.

The forest official added that the JCB machine had been used successfully previously this year in Betalghat, Nainital, and they wanted to replicate the same in Ramnagar.

“Twice it attacked the JCB machine, breaking the wind screen in first attack and damaging the roof in the second, due to which it also lost some canines and lost blood,” said the forest official.

–IANS

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