When humans and animals fight for territory, it's often the animals that lose. This conflict is highlighted in a shocking new video that shows a tiger being possibly crushed by a large excavator.
The tiger was caught in the Ramnagar Forest, where it may have strayed from the Corbett Tiger Reserve, which lies at the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India.
The Times of India reported that the tiger had killed two people the day before in the town of Bailpadav. The tiger had allegedly been tranquilized before faltering under the weight of the excavator's arm. This could account for why the big cat seemed to have difficulty escaping the slow moving machinery.
The animal was later taken to nearby Nainital zoo where a post-mortem report lists the causes of death as asphyxiation, injuries inflicted from territorial disputes with other tigers, and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
A report from the Hindustan Times claimed that the tiger broke its tooth on the machine, causing it to choke on blood.
In response, the state has formed a four-person team, comprised of a forest official, a veterinarian, and two wildlife experts, to investigate the tiger's death and the use of large machinery in corralling such animals.
A 2011 study performed in part with the World Wildlife Fund in India found that the Corbett Tiger Reserve has the highest density of wild tigers in India, and by default, likely the world. This population density makes it more plausible that the tiger sustained injuries during a territorial battle; however, the timing of its death, hours after being crushed by a steel scoop, had led to outrage online.
Bengal tigers are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as an endangered species. Nearly 70 percent of tigers in the wild can be find in India alone. Habitat loss and hunting have severely impacted how easily tigers can survive in the wild, making humans one of their most dangerous adversaries and biggest allies.
Population counts from 2015 estimated the wild tiger population to be 2,226, but an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 once roamed India. In the Terai region of India, which contains the Corbett Tiger Reserve, populations have increased. At least 79 adults were counted in the park last year.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement among 175 nations, offers international protections to tigers. Tigers, India's national animal, have been protected since the government-sponsored Project Tiger launched in 1973. Forty-seven tiger preserves currently exist in India and are managed by the state's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
Though tigers are protected under its international stipulations, a booming population in India has furthered dangerous interactions between humans and tigers.
Over a billion people live in India. Only three percent of land is undeveloped there, but it's this land upon which tigers and other threatened species most depend, meaning conflicts are common.
A number of steps can be taken to mitigate possible conflict between wild animals and humans.
One way for scientists to track tiger populations is through camera traps, which capture a tiger's unique set of stripes, and allows IDs to be made of tigers within a certain region.
Identifying potential territorial disputes, creating new tiger reserves, and relocating either people or tigers are all methods the NTCA lists on its website.
Bengal tigers aren't the only animal being affected by India's booming population. Asian elephants often encroach upon human territory and vice versa. M. Ananda Kumar, a scientist from the Nature Conservation Foundation, created a text alert system that allows those who live in close proximity of Asian elephants to know when they are in the area, avoiding a potentially fatal encounter.
Protecting tigers in the future will depend on vigilance by NTCA authorities. Currently, they recommend using traps and tranquilizers to move tigers away from people, and building structures to block them from crops and livestock.
This story is being updated. Indian authorities could not be reached at the time of this article's publication.