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Government removes zoo curator following tigress death

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October 18, 2000 


HYDERABAD (AP) - Authorities in southern India on Tuesday transferred the conservator of a zoo where a 13-month-old tigress was killed and skinned two weeks ago by unidentified intruders.

Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the top elected official of the Andhra Pradesh state, removed B. Trinadha Rao, head of the Nehru Zoological Park in the state capital, Hyderabad, hours after the results of a high-level probe were submitted to the government.

Suspected poachers broke into the a zoo on the night of Oct. 4-5 and killed and skinned the tigress after drugging her.

Zoo workers found the carcass of the tigress the next day, floating in a nearby water tank. There were blood stains in and around her enclosure, suggesting that the poachers had dragged the cat to some distance after killing it. Two of her nails had been torn out.

Senior official A.V.S. Reddy, who submitted the report after a weeklong inquiry, refused to divulge the conclusions of the probe. But he is believed to have blamed the zoo staff for allegedly conniving with the killers of the tigress, one of the 19 cats in the Hyderabad zoo.

Reddy refused to comment on the report.

"I cannot reveal anything now. It is for the government to decide and make it public," he said.

While the investigation was on, Reddy had said that the killing was an inside job. Reddy had told reporters on Friday : "The killing of the tigress could be handiwork of any body but it was done definitely with the connivance of the zoo staff."

Reddy said only a person familiar with the geography of the zoo and details of the tigers' upkeep could have killed her.

"No outsider could have dared enter the zoo in the dead of the night, go into the enclosure of the tigers, kill a tiger and take away its skin," he said.

He also said that he found it unusual that zoo authorities did not inform their superiors even 24 hours after the killing. Police and crime branch officials said the delay in reporting the death led to the loss of invaluable clues about the culprits.

The state government replaced Rao with A.V. Joseph as the new curator of the zoo.

The Nehru Zoological Park is one of the biggest zoos in the country. Spread over an area of 460 acres, it is home to nearly 2,000 rare and endangered animals and exotic birds.

Meanwhile, police announced a reward of 100,000 rupees (dlrs 2,174) and the Andhra Pradesh government offered a reward of 200,000 rupees (dlrs 4,347) for information about the killers. Zoo employees, who were unhappy that they are under suspicion, have also announced a reward of 50,000 rupees (dlrs 1,086).

Half the world's 5,000 to 7,000 tigers live in India, the National Geographic Society estimates, and hundreds have been killed in the past 10 years in the nation's wildlife sanctuaries.

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