The carcass of a tiger, believed to be aged between 11 and 15 years, was found in a bush in Sikkali village in Thalavadi forest in Erode district, close to the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve on Saturday evening.

Forest officials are yet to ascertain the cause of the death of the big cat.

Incidentally, this is the fourth death of a tiger in the Nilgiris and Erode regions this year. In a related incident, Forest officials arrested three persons in Bangalathotti in Asanur forest range who were carrying some tiger nails and teeth. Asanur Forest Range in-charge Bernard is questioning the three - Sekar, Santhan and Selvan, to ascertain if they were in any way involved in the death of the tiger in Thalavadi.

According to Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve Divisional Forest Officer K Rajkumar, the tiger was found dead by staff (led by Ranger Udayakumar) who were on regular patrol 100 metres away from the Mukampalayam dam adjoining Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border. Veterinarians found that the carcass was putrefied and hence it was difficult to identify its sex.

On Sunday, the tiger was cremated after a postmortem was conducted in the presence of a committee comprising members of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, World Wildlife Fund, NGOs and veterinarian. The tiger’s teeth were intact and but some nails were missing. Considering this, Rajkumar said, it was unlikely that the animal was poached. “The tiger appears to have died a week ago and is aged around 11 years old,” he said.

However, looking at the lesions the possibility of the animal having been poisoned cannot be ruled out. It could also have died of old age or in a territorial fight. “The tissue has been sent to the lab for test to rule out any suspicions over its death,” an official said.

Earlier this year, three tigers were found dead and one big cat, dubbed a man eater, was shot dead by Forest officials in Nilgiris. One tiger carcass was found in Kallampalayam in Nilgiri Eastern Slope range, while another was found in Moyar in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Besides, a decomposed tiger carcass was also found in Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR).

Post mortems had suggested that the tiger in Kallampalayam had died of ulcer, while that the tigers in Moyar and ATR would have died during territorial fights.