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The Sleepless Sentinel

Radio Collars may push tigers to extinction
Sundarban Tigeress dies from lack of monitoring

Staff Reporter, NINB, Gosaba; In the second week of March, 2015, the carcass of a sub adult tigress was found in the STR (Sunderban Tiger Reserve). A post mortem report later revealed that the remains were one to two months old. What bothered the forest fraternity was that the death of a tigress went unnoticed for two whole months even after being tracked by a radio collar.

The tigress in question was captured from the Sunderban forest in early 2013 when she was three and a half year old. She had a hind leg injury and was limping around the forest unable to hunt and feed herself. After being treated in Sajnekhali for a year and a half, she was radio – collared and released in the wild by WII (Wildlife Institute of India) in the year 2014 even after being cautioned by wildlife conservationists. A Radio collar is fitted with a small radio transmitter that when attached to a wild animal can be used in tracking the animal's movements by radio telemetry Or GPS (Geographic Positioning System).

The first few months signaled that her movements stretched to a wide range of area but gradually slowed down until her signal showed that she did not move at all throughout the last month. This alarmed the forest authorities who finally launched a search operation in the core area amidst dense foliage. It was on 10th march when they managed to locate her remains.

Veterinary surgeon confirmed that the tigress died of an infection that was caused by the collar. It should be noted that she was radio – collared when she was only a sub adult, so when she reached her adulthood the radio collar tied to her neck no longer fitted her adult neck causing extreme discomfort to the point of suffocation.

Not only this, according to a study published by Nature Indian four years back, all felid males grab the neck of the females in the course of mating. This is a phylo-genetical habit of the felids (Gupta, 2011). Canids or other carnivores hardly do it. This phenomenon has been observed by Gupta, that in few domestic male cats (felid too) became aggressive and attacked the females during mating. In case of felids, especially tigers, the presence of a radio collar may irritate the male so much that it might kill its female partner while mating. In spite of this crucial piece of information, it came as a bitter surprise why techno- scientists acknowledged the decision to radio collar a tiger, especially the females. Besides it’s the naturalist and wild lifers who properly understand animal psychology, behavioral pattern and the laws of nature as they have been and studied the field extensively unlike techno-scientists. Hence, it’s evident from these facts that if this trend continues then tiger conservation may come to a sad end. This occurrence of inter-sex fighting is not natural and should not be considered as in-fighting, which usually occurs within the same sex animal. The consequences are difficult to observe in the wild but chances are that it may decrease the population of female tigers. Human interference will ultimately push the specie to extinction. The interference of such technology with nature should be stopped with immediate effect for there will be the devil to pay if we play with laws of nature.