New Delhi, June 26: In a worrisome trend, tigers have been found to be killing and eating elephants, mainly young ones in the famed Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.
An official study conducted from 2014 to May 31, 2019, found that around 21 elephants, nine tigers, and six leopards died due to infighting. What is raising the eyebrows is the fact that of the 21 elephant dead, 13 were killed by tigers.
Out of the total 36 cases for the three species, 21 were reported in case of wild elephants alone. However, a very surprising aspect was that around 60 per cent of wild elephant death cases (13) were due to attack by tigers mostly on young ones.
Out of 21 elephant deaths, the study attributes 13 (60 per cent) to attacks by tigers, mostly on young elephants. It suggests that this may be happening because hunting an elephant requires less energy than hunting a sambar or a cheetal, and because an elephant provides a larger quantity of food.
Even in cases where elephants were killed in infighting, tigers were found eating their body parts. Regarding remaining cases of death of wild elephants, it was mostly because of fight due to issue of mating.
In case of tigers, total number of deaths during the five years period was nine and out of these, 80 per cent (seven) cases were due to infighting. The remaining tigers were killed because of fights with porcupines and wild boars, it said.
In case of leopards, there were six deaths because of infighting. Of these, two third cases were due to attack by other carnivore species.
Out of four cases, in two cases, there were definitive evidences of killing by tigers but in rest of two cases, exact identity of attacking species is yet to be established. This aspect of tiger-leopard conflict is to be further studied in details. In remaining one third cases, it was because of mutual infighting among themselves.
The Corbett park is the first national park of India, established in 1936. It was then named Hailey National Park. In 1957, it was rechristened as the Corbett National Park in the memory of Jim Corbett, great naturalist and eminent conservationist.
The park, which is spread in an area of around 1,200 sq km, is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas. There are estimated 340 tigers in Uttarakhand, according to 2014 census of the big cats. The state has three tiger reserves -- Corbett National Park, Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Kalagarh Tiger Reserve.
Corbett has a unique ecosystem as there are 225 tigers and around 1,100 wild elephants, whereas other national parks like Ranthambore, Kanha and Bandhavgarh mainly have tigers
The study was conducted in wake of death of a tigress on May 27, 2019, because of infighting. The study signals a worrying trend in wildlife as tigers usually don't eat elephants and this peculiar aspect of tiger-elephant conflict needs to be studied in further details.