A tigress that had sustained injuries in a wire trap in September 2017 died during a rescue operation in Maharashtra’s Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, reports said. T-4’s death on March 17 has led to speculation about whether the tranquilliser dosage was beyond the permissible amount.

A report in the Hindustan Times said that the postmortem report indicated that the combination of the tranquilliser and an earlier injury could have caused her death. An unidentified official said the veterinarian should have gauged her body weight before administering the tranquilliser dose.

T-4 was spotted with a neck injury caused by a wire snare in September 2017 and was next seen on May 5, 2018. “Her neck injury worsened over time,” said Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Nagpur. Limaye said the animal was tranquillised at 6.30 pm on March 17 and declared dead at 8 pm.

Ravikiran Govekar, Pench tiger reserve field director and chief conservator of forest, said T-4’s postmortem report showed that her injury was quite deep and that maggots had collected around the wound. “She succumbed to her injuries after the impact of the tranquillisation and died soon after,” Govekar said. “The veterinarians will submit a detailed report.”

Wildlife Protection Society of India Director Nitin Desai said healthy tigers can handle tranquillising. “It is possible the dosage was high and the tigress did not survive,” Desai said.

Wildlife advocate Sarita Subramaniam has moved the Bombay High Court against the forest department. “The forest department is treating tigers as guinea pigs without practising proper dosage during darting or providing proper expertise in such cases,” she told the Hindustan Times.

Avni killing

The tiger’s death follows the killing of “man-eating tigress” Avni in the state’s Yavatmal district on November 2. The six-year-old animal, who had two 11-month-old cubs at the time, had allegedly killed at least 13 people in Ralegaon forest in Yavatmal since June 2016. Several people and animal rights groups had criticised Forests Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar for giving orders to kill the animal.

Multiple reports had found discrepancies between what the hunting team had said and the animal’s death and following autopsy. The team had claimed Avni was killed in self-defence, while evidence showed otherwise. Forest department officials had been told to shoot the animal only if the tranquillisers failed, as per Supreme Court orders. She was also shot at night, which is against the norms, and with a weapon not prescribed to kill such tigers with.