TN Forest Department draws flak for ‘firing two tranquilisers’ on tiger

The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has drawn flak on capturing the elusive MDT23 tiger by firing two doses of tranquiliser on the animal in a span of one hour.

Reports, citing sources in the team that tranquilised the tiger, said that a veterinarian, mounted on a kumki elephant, had fired a dart at the tiger at 1 p.m. on Friday but the big cat escaped in the forest. The members of the team had said that another veterinarian had spotted the tiger one hour after this and also fired a dart that led to the animal reacting to the sedative and being captured.

Several animal rights organisations have now demanded that the exact situation of the tiger’s capture, and the animal’s current health, be unveiled before the public.

“The Forest Department has to reveal the truth as to how the tiger was captured. There are reports that two darts of the tranquiliser were fired at the animal in one hour span leading to deteriorating haemoglobin level of the tiger. There were also reports that the tiger was in sedation till Saturday night, a whole day after it was captured,” a Theni-based wildlife biologist told IANS.

The biologist said that two doses of tranquiliser in a span of one hour should not be administered. “The combination of ketamine-xylazamine that is used to tranquilize the animal is extremely powerful and a second dose cannot be used even as a precautionary measure,” he said, noting that there were instances of tigers dying following the use of two doses of the tranquilizer in a span of one hour.

However, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Wildlife Warden, Shekhar Kumar Niraj, who had himself led the mission to capture the tiger which is alleged to have killed four humans and 12 heads of cattle, told media that the tiger was fine and roaring at the Mysore zoo where it was undergoing treatment.

He denied the allegations of two doses. “The tiger was given only one dose of the dart which was 20 mg of ketamine-xylazamine. This is in line with the standard operation procedure of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA),” Niraj told IANS.

Meanwhile, people of Gudalur, Masinagudi, and Singara heaved a sigh of relief and thanked the Forest Department and Niraj for the 22-day massive search operation undertaken by the team for capturing the tiger.

“It is a great relief to the people of this area and especially for people like us who are trying desperately to somehow get back to life after a two-year lull, due to the pandemic. The Forest Department of Tamil Nadu with the support of the Forest Departments of Kerala and Karnataka had done yeoman service to the people of this area in capturing the ‘man-eating’ tiger,” Devaprasad, who runs a resort at Masinagudi, told IANS.

“Owing to the presence of this tiger and travel restrictions put in place, there has been a major cancellation of bookings in our resort and all the resorts in Gudalur and adjacent areas. We specifically thank the Tamil Nadu government and the Chief Wildlife Warden for leading the operation from the front,” he added.