Experts doubt snakebite as cause of tigress death

Though the investigators on Saturday rushed to attribute the death of a pregnant tigress near Jamni village inside Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve to snakebite, facts don't appear to support the theory.

The fact that the tigress had developed heamotoxic effects (blood-clotting) and had an instant death is being contested by experts who say that a strong animal like tiger would not die so soon even if bitten by cobra. Officials said that the body was fresh.

Incidentally, cobra poison is nuerotoxic; it affects the nervous system. Only vipers have haemotoxic venom but even humans can survive without treatment for days after a viper bite. "Even a cobra bite will take about 10 hours for the tiger to die. In that case the body will be swollen. If not, the cause is unlikely to be a snakebite," said Vivek Sharma, a snake expert from Jabalpur.

TATR Field Director Virendra Tiwari did not elaborate on the issue and said, "Snakebite is the doctor's opinion. Please talk to him."

P D Kadukar, the vet who performed the autopsy and had inferred that the prima facie possibility of a snakebite, said, "The body was fresh, there was no swelling and it was not even smelling foul. The tigress had died around 2 am. He said that going by the haemotoxic effect and internal bleeding, it seems like a snakebite. "We haven't said that it was a viper that possibly bit it," he said. Another fact that helps one rule out a viper bite according to Sharma is that in case the animal should have weakened and making it unable to hunt. "It wouldn't be able to kill animal like Sambhar, which the tigress is said to have freshly consumed," he said.

The Field Director said that the viscera of the tigress has been sent for forensic tests.

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