Monday 26 March 2012

An unprecedented incident in Corbett National Park

Written by Anil Singh

In early March, an unprecedented incident took place in the Dhela Range of the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.

The forest guards came across a tiger eating the body of a tusker (an elephant bearing tusks) during afternoon hours March 11.

The deceased elephant’s tusks that were around two feet in length.

According to experts, in all likelihood, the tiger had killed the tusker as the latter had injuries both on its back and head. The injuries mark visibly revealed that the tusker was attacked by a tiger.

When found by the forest guard, the tiger had also eaten parts of the body of the deceased tusker.

Highest predators, which includes tigers, attacking an elephant, that too with tusks is not a usual happening. The incident may point to a few things: For instance, the tusker may be injured or ill, making it an easy target for the tiger. OR the tiger may have scavenged on an already dead tusker. If the tiger attacked a healthy tusker, even if from behind, is a thing to be concerned about.

As all three scenarios, if my knowledge serves me right: paint a rather grim picture for tigers in Jim Corbett Uttarakhand; who may be facing food shortage due to shrinking habitat.

Although scavenging on an elephant or attacking an elephant by a tiger for food is not unknown; the behavior is quite rare; making one infer the Jim Corbett incident as Tigers indulging in ‘Apad Dharma’ (Profession taken by Brahmins in ancient times at the time of dire situations, which included army, agriculture and business): Wherein they are behaving below their basic and often seen nature; or risking their lives for stomach.

Wild-life experts out there, please correct me, if I’m wrong.

Notably, Elephants in Uttarakhand’s wild life reserves are also facing food shortage. Th culprit here, apart from fast expanding human settelemnets, is the Lantena (a shrub with flowers, having small clusters), which has spread on nearly half of reserved forest land. Notably, elephants don't eat lantena; a plant which the Government encouraged many years ago, to contain the spread of Parthenium hysterophorus (Gajar Ghas).

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