The death of a tigress and her three cubs in Goa in the last few days has set alarm bells ringing among the tiger conservation community. The carcass of the first tiger was found on Sunday in Goa's Mahadayi wildlife sanctuary. Three men were arrested on Wednesday by Goa Police after the fourth carcass was found. The centre has also set up a two-member team to investigate the deaths.
The three men are suspected to have poisoned the tigress and her three cubs, news agency PTI quoted officials as saying. "After the recovery of the carcass of the tigress, her cub was found dead within one kilometre radius during a combing operation. While one of her cubs was found dead on Sunday, the carcass of another cub was recovered on Tuesday," the official reportedly said.
The tigress and her cubs were found dead in in the forests of Golavali village in Sattari taluka, around 39 km from Panaji.
The forest department, on the face of it, suspects that the tigress and her cubs were poisoned in a "revenge killing" for preying on cattle in the village, PTI reported.
"The tragic incidents of tiger deaths are shocking and saddening. We will investigate and take stern action against the perpetrators. The state authorities are working round the clock, and three arrests have been made in this connection", Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has set up a team headed by Rajendra Garawad from Bengaluru, a senior official in National Tiger Conservation Authority, and a top officer of the ministry's western region in Mumbai to probe the tiger deaths and suggest further legal course of action.
The team has been asked to submit its report within seven days.
On Wednesday, Goa health minister Vishwajit Rane demanded investigation by a central team into the deaths. Mr Rane, in whose assembly constituency the deaths were reported, tweeted, "With reference to the two cubs that have been found dead at Mahadayi wildlife Sanctuary, Sattari, I would request Union Minister for Forest Shri @PrakashJavdekar to intervene and send a central team to conduct a detailed investigation into the matter."
The Mahadayi Wildlife Sanctuary, where the tiger carcasses were found, is located in the lower reaches of the Western Ghats.
According to a census conducted by the central wildlife authorities, the presence of five tigers was recorded in Goa.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)