A five-day search operation for three tiger cubs in the Antharasanthe forest range under Nagarhole tiger reserve found success on Wednesday with officials spotting the trio in an “active and healthy” condition.
The cubs were missing since their mother, a 12-13 year old tigress who was named informally as ‘Nyangachchikatte Female’, was found dead in a field in Taraka village near the reserve on Saturday.
Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary director Harshakumar Chikkanaragund said on Wednesday that a massive search operation was mounted on Saturday involving more than 150 department officials to track down the cubs.
The department also pressed three elephants — Abhimanyu, Ashwatthama and Bhima — into the operation to assist in combing efforts on Sunday, he said.
“The department installed 30-plus camera traps in various locations and used two drone cameras to track down the cubs…” he added.
An officer associated with the search operation said they had spotted two cubs on Monday, but they could not track them.
“On Wednesday, one of the cameras recorded the movement of the cubs. In the footage, they were active and healthy,” said Chikkanaragund. “It is a big relief for us.”
He added that they found a deer carcass in the area which may have been hunted by the cubs. “We will continue our operation and monitor the movement of cubs,” he said.
The deceased tigress was popular among tourists and wildlife enthusiasts in the reserve.
According to forest department officials, it is suspected that she came to the backwater in Taraka area with her cubs in search of food. Chikkanaragund ruled out the involvement of poachers in the tigress’s death saying her nails, teeth and pelt were intact
Former forest department official KM Chinnappa said that instead trying to rescue the cubs, the department should leave them to nature. “The most important thing is that though forest officials have all the facilities and sufficient staff how poachers could enter the forest? It is due to part of their negligence,” he asked.
He also added that generally, cubs will not be able to hunt till the age of 15-18 months.
According to wildlife crime control bureau (WCCB) data, this is 96th tiger death in the country and the 14th death Karnataka in this year. The Nagarhole tiger reserve has 125 tigers with the third-highest tiger density reserve in the country and first in the state. The Jim Corbett tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh and Kaziranga tiger reserve in Assam are other highest-density tiger reserves.
State additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF) G Kumar Pushkar has arrived Nagarhole on Wednesday and the officer is monitoring the operation and camping here.