Maasti, The Tiger With The Amputated Leg

by Chirdeep Shetty
Chirdeep Shetty
Maasti in his enclosure at Bannerghatta national park.

Chosen as Picture of the Week

This incident is active testimony to what wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can do to immediately document and report such (poaching) issues to the local forest and law enforcement officers.

This is a sorrowful story of a wild tiger that lost its limb to a poachers’ trap as well as its wild existence. In May 2002, when Dr. Ajit Huilgol, an avid Bangalore-based wildlife enthusiast and photographer, was on one of his regular safaris in Nagarahole National Park, he noticed a tiger sitting uncomfortably on the grass. He started taking pictures of the tiger and noticed something stuck to the tiger’s left paw. Soon after, to his horror, the tiger got up and began limping in pain, with a large metal jaw-trap clamped on to its leg. Dr. Huilgol got some more shots of the tiger limping and immediately contacted the forest officials. The images and videos were shown on national news channels and forest department began an immediate hunt for this tiger.

RFO Ravindra Kumar was involved in capturing and relocating the tiger. They set-up a few cages with baits at Maastigudi, the area of the national park where the tiger was seen. Within a few days, the tiger was captured in the cage and relocated to a medical facility. Veterinarians had to amputate its leg to save the animal. It was then relocated to the Bannerghatta national park and is currently being taken care of by The Born Free foundation.

The RFO, then went on to further investigate the issue and found that some members of the famous Pardhi tribe from Madhya Pradesh had come down and setup camp at Nagarahole. In a few days, a gang of 60 poachers from the tribe were arrested with traps, snares and other crude weapons.

While the gang of poachers failed to kill the tiger, they still effectively removed a wild tiger from its habitat — a huge loss given how scarce tigers are in the country. A well taken care off tiger in captivity has little value to its wild population.

This incident is active testimony to what wildlife enthusiasts and photographers can do to immediately document and report such issues to the local forest and law enforcement officers.

I happened to volunteer with Mr. Ravindra Kumar for the 2006 tiger census in the Balle range of Nagarahole national park. He showed me the jaw trap that the tiger was caught in, with bone fragments still stuck in the trap. It was one of the most horrifying sights I had seen in my life.

I visited the tiger (named Maasti, after Maastigudi where it was found) in 2009, and was told that he had recently fathered a few cubs which were being raised there. Here is a picture of Maasti in his enclosure at Bannerghatta national park.

About the author

Chirdeep Shetty

Chirdeep Shetty is a Bangalore-based wildlife enthusiast and photographer.

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