The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into all tiger deaths in the Corbett Tiger Reserve over the last five years, PTI reported. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lokpal Singh also ordered the agency to investigate if forest department officials were involved in incidents of poaching.

The CBI has been ordered to submit its preliminary report within three months and can employ the services of its Wildlife Wing. The court asked the Director General of Police to set up a Special Investigation Team headed by senior superintendents of police to arrest poachers.

While it would not generally order a probe into tiger deaths, the present case was “the rarest of rare cases where the expertise of the CBI is solicited”, the court said. It was earlier told that of the nine tiger deaths in the past, only six were natural.

The High Court was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2012 by an NGO, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vikas Sansthan. It claimed that forest land around the tiger reserve was being encroached upon, reported The Times of India. Intervention applications also flagged several other issues, saying 40 tiger deaths and 272 leopard deaths were reported in the state over the last two and a half years.

Describing it as “a very big number”, the court said it could not condone the state government putting down the deaths to the principle of “survival of the fittest”. “All the tigers must be preserved and be safe and sound,” said the court.

The court also directed the Uttarakhand government to include in the tiger reserve an area measuring 318.80 hectares in Dhulwa and Dhumanda, setting a deadline of 30 days. It also asked the state to stop private and commercial vehicles from plying in the reserve’s Dhikala Zone.