Mystery surrounds disappearance of one of India’s most important tigers in Rajasthan

Descending from tiger royalty, ST-13 fathered dozens of cubs and ruled over a vast territory. His disappearance has brought back the spectre of poaching and rumblings of a cover-up to this historic reserve, as Arpan Rai reports

Sunday 22 May 2022 14:27
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<p>ST-13, an Indian Royal Bengal tiger, seen in a river in Sariska reserve in Rajasthan. The tiger, last seen in mid-January, has been declared missing </p>

ST-13, an Indian Royal Bengal tiger, seen in a river in Sariska reserve in Rajasthan. The tiger, last seen in mid-January, has been declared missing

On a crisp winter morning in January this year, every available forest ranger scrambled into their jeep and rolled out into the grasslands and valleys of Sariska Tiger Reserve in western India’s Rajasthan state.

Around 35 search teams in all, including staff called in from three neighbouring ranges, entered the dense, thorny forest of the reserve’s core tiger habitat with a single shared goal — to find Sariska’s apex male Royal Bengal tiger, which had not been seen for five days and appeared to have vanished without a trace.

There was already a sense of alarm even that early on, the Sariska officials in charge of the search tell The Independent, because five days is a long time for a tiger to be missing. Even if the animal itself isn’t sighted, tigers leave behind plenty of clues to their presence, from pugmarks to fresh scratches on trees and even sprays of urine, which local rangers can attribute to a particular individual.

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