Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

 WILDLIFE WINDOW | Aqeel Farooqi

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | September 12, 2001


A question on post mortems in the wild

In my humble opinion, over-eating is an indulgence that is exclusively practiced by gastronomes belonging to the human race. But when it comes to animals in the wild, nature and instinct ensures that they eat only the amount that is required for survival. So when the cause of death of the wild elephant that was found dead last week in the forests of Bijnore district, was attributed to over-eating, one tended to reach out for the proverbial pinch of salt.

As the veterinary experts who examined the body of the elephant would have us believe, a perfectly healthy 35 year-old wild tusker suddenly decided to go on an eating spree and ended up dead, entangling all his intestines in the process. The presence of tusks in the carcass, and the lack of any external injury on its body, must have acted as the obvious factors that guided the post-mortem report to discard the hand of the poacher in the death of this elephant. But the logical question that follows is whether the post-mortem examination categorically ruled out the not-so-obvious poisoning as one of the other possible causes?

From an official standpoint, it is understandable that conceding another success to poachers at a time when the Corbett authorities are reeling under the impact of negative publicity, is an entirely avoidable issue. But it should not be forgotten that in the light of the state government’s drive for transparency, conservation NGO’s and interested members of the public would now tend to show increased desire to be informed of details of hitherto unquestioned departmental activities like disposal of carcasses of poached animals, and details of their post-mortem reports. It would therefore be advisable for the wildlife authorities to conduct these activities with a holistic approach so that if logical and pertinent questions are raised, they may be answered with candidness and clarity.

It may be recalled that the death of a tiger in Pilibhit early this year, and its subsequent post mortem report, had kicked up a lot of controversy about the cause of death. Whereas the official version established it as septicaemia, it was hotly argued by others on the grounds that it was actually a bullet that had injured the tiger in the upper neck region. Being unable to lick itself at the point of injury, it was inevitable that the wound turned gangrenous, and the tiger died of septicemia. However, the official version stood strong since the IVRI veterinarians who conducted the autopsy clearly ruled out a bullet injury.

A similar debate also arose in Bandhavgarh national park last year, where the post mortem report on a tiger found dead, certified that it had died of over-eating. What prompted the debate was the fact that the tiger had vomited soon after taking a second meal from a kill it had made earlier. These circumstances certainly did not rule out the possibility of poachers having laced the kill with poison. But in that case too, the cause of death that prevailed, was over-eating.

There is no denying the fact that the controversies that are raised in such cases are sometimes the handiwork of disgruntled locals who have an axe to grind against the concerned park management. They also manage to garner the support of local media, which lends credence to the doubts they raise. The only way these doubts can be set at rest is for the authorities to bring in transparency in the conduct of post mortems, especially in cases where the hand of the poacher can even remotely be suspected. Such cases should be examined in the presence of a few knowledgeable members of the public and the media. Once this practice is established, it would greatly help to stop the canards from flying – hopefully from both sides.

But the question that nags, and still remains unanswered, is whether wild animals die of over-eating. And if they do, what sudden physiological impulse overrides their strong natural instinct of equilibrium?