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Haa: A tiger caught
Bengal tiger
Sub-tropical Royal Bengal Tiger with its prey
Farmers in Tsaphey village in Haa dzongkhag are breathing easy after a male Royal Bengal Tiger which killed four animals in the village was sedated and caged on November 3, 2005.

In the early hours of November 1, the tiger pounced on a pregnant mare, killed it, and dragged it about 20 metres before devouring almost half the carcass. It was the fourth animal that the tiger killed in 20 days. "That was the second kill in four days," said Ugyen Lham who had lost a jersey cow three days earlier.

The tiger, measuring about 2.04 metres, killed a cow on October 16 but the villagers had recovered the carcass before the tiger could eat it.

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Farmers and forestry officials had kept vigil on the night when the tiger killed the mare. "We saw it attacking a neighbour's pig sty and didn't sleep the whole night," said Dorji. "But before we knew, it had killed my mare."We have heard of tigers but never seen one," said Dorji. Farmers had seen pugmarks many times and started keeping their cattle and horses in the ground floor of their homes.

The nature conservation division of the department of forest identified the tiger as a Royal Bengal Tiger whose usual habitat was in the tropical and sub tropical open grasslands. "We have surveyed the area but never came across a tiger," said a tiger specialist, Sangay, who prefers to be called Tiger Sangay.

Tsaphey is about 2,670 meters above the sea level. Dr. Sangay Wangchuk, NCD's joint director, said that the tiger in Tsaphey had come prowling for easy prey. "The tiger is old, weak and cannot hunt its natural prey," he said. "It came looking for easier prey like domestic animals because they are not adapted to running away from predators like tigers."

Tiger Sangay added that the tiger had lost most of its claws, both canine teeth in the left jaw, and it's paws were infected. The specialist estimates the tiger to be more than 15 years old.

The tiger in Tsaphey was the third Royal Bengal Tiger confirmed in the alpine regions of Bhutan, according to the division. Dr. Sangay Wangchuk said that the change in habitat for the Bengal Tiger could be because of the encroachment on tiger habitats in the foothills from human activities. "Bhutan with its intact natural environment provides a good habitat for tigers," he said.

Meanwhile, NCD is building a temporary enclosure in Taba to house the tiger. Officials said that the tiger is too weak to be released in the wild. "If we let it go it will die because it is too weak to hunt," Tiger Sangay said.

Contributed by Ugyen Penjore, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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