Water scarcity in the intense summer heat of Rajasthan has caused animals in the wild to stray and led to incidents of animal-human conflicts. The dry water holes in forest have also caused a panther's death last week.
The panther's body was spotted Tuesday in the Devdungari forest area of Bhilwara district, some 300 km from state capital Jaipur. The animal had died of thirst, officials said.
Environmentalists accused the government of not making adequate arrangements for water, forcing wild animals to stray into human habitats to quench their thirst and hunger, as many recent incidents of animal-human conflicts suggest.
"It seems the panther had died at least five days ago. Some villagers told the authorities when they spotted the body near their village on the edge of the forest," People for Animals' state in-charge Babulal Jaju told IANS.
He added that the panther had not been killed by poachers, as they usually skin the animal and remove its bones before selling the bodies.
"There were also no signs on the body of a fight between two panthers. The young panther seems to have died of hunger and thirst," said Jaju.
He said there were several panthers in the Devdungari forests, but the diminishing water holes have made life for wild animals difficult in most state forests. He demanded a thorough investigation into the panther's death.
In April, a panther had mauled to death a seven-year old girl in Rajsamand. The animal had strayed into her village in search of food and water. Similarly, in March a wild bear mauled to death two men over two days and left at least 10 others injured in Dholpur.
"Several other minor incidents of wild animals attacking humans have been reported in the state in the recent past. It is largely because these animals are straying into nearby villages in search of water and food," said Jaju.
India's desert state boasts of two tiger projects, one bird sanctuary and 25 wildlife sanctuaries. These protected areas offer great eco-tourism opportunities for both domestic and foreign tourists.
"Some of the wildlife reserves and parks are facing an acute water shortage this summer," Jaju said, and added that the measures taken so far by the state government to augment water supplies were few.
Due to the sweltering heat, many small water reservoirs have dried up while others are on the verge of drying up.
One forest watering project that is yielding results is the channelling of Chambal river waters into the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan.