A tiger, which was found dead in the Kakanakote forests (D.B. Kuppe range) of the Nagarahole National Park early this month, was poisoned in what is suspected to be an act of revenge.

The post-mortem report and visceral analysis indicate the presence of zinc phosphide, which is rat poison. This has sent shockwaves among conservationists and Forest Department officials.

This is said to be the first case of a tiger being poisoned in the national park, which is a major tiger reserve and home to about 70 of them.

R. Gokul, Director, Conservator of Forests and Director, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, confirmed that the tiger, which was found dead on January 13 near the Kabini backwaters was poisoned. Its carcass, discovered two weeks ago, was intact, with no sign of external injuries, putting a question mark on cause of death.

Though there was a question of whether poachers had a hand in the death, this has been ruled out as neither the skin nor the claws had been removed. The needle of suspicion points to revenge killing and Mr. Gokul said the animal may have strayed out of its habitat and stalked livestock. Since tigers have a tendency to partially eat their prey and conceal it in bushes to consume over a period of time, the local community may have poisoned the carcass of the cattle, resulting in the tiger’s death, he said.

But the nearest human habitation is nearly 3 km from the spot where the tiger was found, casting doubt on that theory.

However, Mr. Gokul pointed out that tigers generally do not stray from their habitat in Nagarahole as the Kabini backwaters acts as a border between the national park and the adjoining human landscape. But due to severe drought, the backwaters has receded and turned into a grassland, with no demarcation separating the forestland from the outside landscape. “As a result, there is free movement of animals in the absence of a water barrier. We suspect the local community on the fringes may have driven their livestock inside the forests in search of fodder. The tiger may have killed one of the domestic animals and the village people may have subsequently poisoned the carcass as an act of revenge,” said Mr. Gokul.

There have been six incidents of tigers straying out of their habitat this season, which is unusually high. This is attributed to increase in tiger density inside the national park.

The authorities have deployed the Special Tiger Protection Force in the area to keep vigil on the movement of animals in the region. Apart from launching a full-fledged investigation into tiger poisoning, the Forest Department will also interact with the local community adjoining the forests and seek their help in wildlife conservation.

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