A terribly misapplied term is the “law of the jungle”, for animals in the wild posses a more civilised sense of order than most human beings.

And for that reason there is need for worry and deep study over reports from the Corbett National Park that there have been recent cases of elephant calves being killed ~ sometimes eaten ~ by tigers.

The preservation of wild life has never been a top priority of the NDA government, and with Mrs Maneka Gandhi no longer a member of the ministerial council the denizens of the forest have lost a forceful champion.

Yet the Modi government must not ignore or underplay a report from a senior forest service official at the reputed game reserve that 60 per cent of the cases of unnatural deaths of elephants were the result of being attacked by tigers ~ the park has an abundant presence of both treasures.

The senior official, Sanjiv Chutarvedi, described that phenomenon as “unique”, and wildlife activist, Ajay Dubey, said a tiger-elephant conflict was unheard of and needed immediate attention, adding that “it is really surprising and worrying that tigers are eating elephants. Authorities must look into this aspect and take necessary steps”.

Chaturvedi opined, “One of its reasons could be that tigers need comparatively less amount of efforts and energy in killing an elephant as against that needed in hunt of species like Sambhar and Cheetal. Killing an elephant results in large quantum of food for them too”.

Unlike other noted sanctuaries like Ranthambore and Kanha, Corbett boasts both tigers and elephants. The government must lose no time setting up a team of international experts, for routine explanations like over-population, shrinking prey-base, and excessive human interface will hardly suffice.

Nor will the stock explanation that tigers have very strong territorial instincts. For tigers attacking elephants cannot be confused with aggressive mating, or more-traditional tiger-leopard conflicts. An overall review of efforts to preserve wildlife would be in order.

There are problems facing the Asiatic lions too, and since Mr Narendra Modi has been re-elected the Prime Minister he would do well to review the previous, highly parochial objection to establishing a second home, outside Gujarat, for the Gir lions.

Many sanctuaries are under pressure from development activities such as new roads and railway lines. The presumed revival of the tiger population has misled the political class into believing that the myriad threats to the big cats have dissipated ~ poaching and the illicit trade in body parts continues, and for political and diplomatic reasons little noise is made over the flourishing trade in tiger skins, body parts etc. in China.

Yet it would be an over-simplification to conclude that there are no domestic threats too. Experts have frequently called for a separate ministry for wildlife protection, but little heed has been taken ~ the animals and birds of the Indian jungle are not blessed with a “vote”.