Flawed and Fatal Tiger Conservation

I am in despair again over tiger conservation. I have absolutely no optimism about tiger conservation. This state of mind has been brought about by an article that was pointed out to me by a person who I believe works in India.

I don’t know his position in conservation. He emailed me having read an article I wrote some time ago about the mismanagement of the Bengal tiger by the conservationists in India – The Bengal tiger is mismanaged.

He initially refers to the “Sariska Tigers”. These are tigers in the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

“…..I have heard from several people that some of these tigers died due to tranquilizers used to sedate the animal. The tranquilizers apparently cause the animals to steadily deteriorate and gradually lose their physical reflexes necessary to catch prey. So they eventually starve to death. One of the drugs used to sedate tigers is called Telazol. And this controversy is not unique to Sariska.

There was some drama regarding a British conservationist in the Sundarbans who has been accused by some as using dangerous drugs which are killing the animals. Then another controversy regarding Ullas Karanth and his work at Nagarahole National Park. I am also told that there is an international embarrassment by various conservation related groups who are trying to cover up their own blunders by blaming animals deaths on ‘poaching’. Because tiger conservation has many people involved. You may want to read this website: Death of two tigers..Our thanks to the author, Siraj ul Hossain.

I have read this article and as I have said I am shocked. I’ll try and summarise it. It is a story of scientists involved in a research study designed to help and save the tiger in the Sundarbans, a major sanctuary for the Bengal tiger. They were sadly responsible for the killing of the tigers concerned, I allege; either through gross carelessness or worse. If I wasn’t being so reasonable I would allege that something underhand was afoot.

In conducting a study that commenced in 2005 on two Bengal tigresses that lived in the Sundarbans, a large marshy forest that grows out of sea water, the scientist a PhD student, Adam Barlow, administered an anesthetic to the tigers called Telazol® (tiletamine/zolazepam). He did this after bait trapping them. Note: In the USA, Telazol can only be administered by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian1. Adam Barlow at the time appears to have been part of the the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota. I hope he didn’t get his Ph.D.

The anesthetic was administered to allow him to attach radio collars to track the cats. Incidentally the radio collars look enormous and very crude.

The whole process seems to have been very crude too. It appears that it was well known at the time that Telazol® should not be used on tigers. The drug causes central nervous system damage to tigers, it seems. It caused confusion, dizzyness and other neurological and physiological problems all of which prevented the tigers from catching prey. These health issues appear to be permanent – correct me if I am wrong.

Tigers, as is the case for all wildcats, have to be in tip top condition to survive in the wild. Incidentally, this is why tigers attack people (very rarely). These are tigers that are too ill, hurt or old to catch their usual prey.

The drug took away their skills. They starved to death and the images are horrible because the tiger is the world’s best known wild animal; probably the world’s most popular animal and a magnificent hunter.

Telazol® reduced this wonderful animal to a shadow of its former self, to a point where wold boar were unafraid of it:

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.
Wild boar confronting dying tigress poisoned by Telazol®

Note on these photos: I have taken the liberty of reproducing them and argue fair use. The photo is a screenshot from a BBC programme about the Ganges. I believe it was called, “Daughter of the Mountains”.

Here is another screenshot of the other starved tigress:

Dying tigress looking starved and incredibly thin.

Well, there you have it. Conservation achieving the opposite of what it is intended to achieve. The laughable thing is that the tracking of these tigers would be worthless because the drug would have altered their behavior. It appears that the whole project was mishandled. It also seems that conservationists don’t share information to the degree that they should do to avoid this sort of catastrophe occurring. When mistakes are made they keep quiet. This protects them but undermines conservation. This sadly is typical human behavior.

There are other examples of mismanaged and negligent conservation in the article referred to above, such as injuring Amur tigers (Siberian tigers) when trapping them. The safer way to monitor tiger activity is to lay camera traps and leave them alone. In the long term the human population “problem” of Bangladesh (one of the most heavily populated countries in the world) will kill off the tiger in that country without the careless attention of so called conservationists.

As I said I have no hope for the tiger in the long term.

See also:

Tiger facts

Bengal tiger facts

Tiger farms


1. http://www.drugs.com/vet/telazol.html

Comments for
Flawed and Fatal Tiger Conservation

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Mar 16, 2011 Robbing our grandchildren
by: Anna

What a sad sad way to go for such a magnificent animal. Our grandchildren will inherit a lifeless planet from us, robbed of all its beauty.

And yes, there are quite a few wildlife refuges in the US, like say www.tigercreek.org in Texas, which save the big cats out of the cages and people’s apartments(!). But these animals will never be able to go back to their majestic natural wilderness, and are living the life of disability without any chances to save their depleting gene pool.

Breaks my heart..

Mar 16, 2011 Hi Rudolph
by: Michael

Thanks for the comment. I am sure they just cover up these events. And I am sure there are many other examples.

I am also sure that there are many other aspects of tiger conservation that are poor.

This has to be the case because the tiger is gradually becoming extinct.

There simply is not the will and commitment to save the tiger at an international level. There are individuals who are highly committed but in general and at governmental level it isn’t there.

Mar 15, 2011 Flawed and fatal tiger conservation.
by: Rudolph.A.Furtado

Honestly Michael, this particular incidence regarding “Tiger deaths” in protected game reserves of India has never been reported in the main media press. Its always “POACHERS” or “Poisoning” by villagers that are the culprints for unexpected “tiger deaths’ in India’s protected forests.
Hope sme elite consrvationists and tiger naturalists learn from the mistakes of others and avoid the same in the future. I personally feel that the tiger is doomed to extinction in the wild forests of its natural habitata in India and will be ultimately confined to zoological parks and small natural reserves.
In the United States of America and China there are more “Pet Tigers” in cages than in the entire forests of India.

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