In April this year, a tigress, T17, also known as "Sundari" went missing, leaving behind three 11-month-old cubs. Environment and Forest Minister Bina Kak deployed personnel to trace the big cat, but there has been no news of the tigress.
Locals fear she may have fallen prey to poachers. "Sundari was very comfortable with humans. She was one of the most photographed tigers of the reserve and was very popular," said a wildlife enthusiast based in Sawai Madhopur, requesting anonymity.
"Two adult and three sub-adult tigers have not come in view of the camera traps laid in the reserve. They cannot be called missing, they may have moved elsewhere or may have died. But till we find their carcasses, we cannot say they are dead," said Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, P S Somashekhar.
Locals, however, claim that the number of "missing" tigers is much more.
In December last year, the carcass of a tiger was found in the Khandar range. The tiger's identity could not be established, nor could an autopsy be done as the carcass was badly decomposed.
Then in March this year, tigress T-37 was found dead in its territory. Some said she may have been pregnant and died of health complications, but others speculated that it could be revenge killing by the neighbouring villagers.
So far, no action has been taken against any official posted in the reserve. The officials in charge of the three ranges which have been affected ' Khandar, Kundera and ROPT ' have not been shunted out of Ranthambhore. "It is a natural phenomenon for tigers to move out and set up new territory. In Ranthambhore, the tiger population is increasing. The forest department has done a great job, there is no reason to worry," said Principal Chief Conservator of Forests U M Sahai.
Kak was not available for comment.