A forest guard was suspended for “unwarranted firing” leading to the death of an approximately 10-year-old male Royal Bengal Tiger in the world famous Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP & TR) in Assam on June 18, officials said on June 28.

A senior KNP & TR official, refusing to name the suspended forest guard, said that the guard was instructed to give protection to households of the nearby Kaziranga National Park areas only. “But the forest guard initiated the operation without the required arrangement. He couldn’t run away when the tiger tried to attack him. Instead of firing in the air, he fired at the animal killing the tiger on the spot,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.

An official statement of KNP & TR said that the carcass of a Royal Bengal Tiger was detected by staff of Bheroni camp under Kohoral Range of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve on the morning of June 18 in Japoripathar village.

“As per preliminary information, the tiger died due to a gunshot injury during a conflict event, fired by forest personnel of the Bheroni camp. Post mortem was conducted as per NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) protocols. The post mortem report revealed a bullet injury through the lungs and the heart. An inquiry conducted by the assistant conservator of forests into the incident revealed that the firing was unwarranted based on which the staff concerned was suspended,” the statement said.

It said the tiger had killed a cow in a nearby village the previous afternoon on June 17 probably because it had three worn out canines while one was missing and could not catch its normal prey. “The old age of the tiger was corroborated by the annual tiger monitoring data available with Kaziranga as well as the NTCA Tiger Cell at Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun which showed that it was photo captured during the 2014 All India Tiger Estimation cycle,” the statement said.

This is the third instance since February this year in which a tiger carcass was recovered from Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

On June 5, the carcass of a four-year-old male tiger was found in Sidha Kathoni area of the national park. Forest officials had said that the four-year-old male tiger was killed in a fight.

Set up in 1908, the KNP & TR, is one of India’s seven UNESCO world heritage sites and extends across Assam’s Golaghat, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong districts. It is home to more than 2,400 one-horned Indian rhinos, approximately two thirds of the total world population. Besides rhinos, it has 121 tigers, 1,089 elephants and huge numbers of Asiatic buffalo, swamp deer, wild boar, hog deer, porcupine and other endangered animals and snakes.

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