Mangaluru: He was the cynosure of all visitors’ eyes ever since he was brought from the Tavarekere tiger reserve in Shivamogga district to the Pilikula Shivarama Karanth Biological Park here in 2003.
The average life-span of a tiger is said to be ranging between 10 to 12 years. Maharaja – fondly called Raja – lived much longer for 21 years and breathed his last in his adoptive abode of greenery in the early hours of Friday, May 22. But another tiger had lived up to 22 years in the past, says the park’s wildlife director, H Jayaprakash Bhandary.
Thousands of children as well as adults had been enamoured of his royal gait and stately look all these years. He was responding so well to the calls and commands of his handlers.
But there was only a single black spot in his record. It was in late July 2011 that he was going through a spell of illness. His caretaker, Kelinje Kushalappa Gowda (36), hailing from Vittal in Bantwal taluk, with all concern for and good intentions of checking Raja’s condition, had got into his enclosure on the night of July 31.
Feeling unnerved and threatened, Raja pounced on Gowda without realizing in the dark that he was his own caretaker and not an intruder. Suffering fatal injuries in the neck which led to excessive bleeding, Gowda died almost instantaneously.
Raja’s menu was quite staggering – 10 kgs of beef and 2 kgs of chicken, which kept him strong and healthy. However, for the last three months – possibly owing to geriatric issues – he was keeping unwell and even had stopped the intake of food during the past few days.
The void created by Raja will definitely be felt not only by the visitors but also the staff at the Pilikula park. Director Bhandary said that as required under wildlife laws, Raja’s viscera and other vital organs have been sent to a laboratory in Bengaluru and the mortal remains were cremated on Friday, May 22.
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