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For the past two months, northern India has been in the grip of
panic. Indian newspapers have been obsessed with the story of a lone
tigress that has covered more than 100 miles undetected through fields,
villages and towns, crossing rivers, highways and rail tracks, stalking
human prey and eating their flesh. As many as 10 people have been
In one case, the cat was gnawing contentedly on the leg and abdomen
of a 50-year-old man it had just slain when villagers managed to scare
it away with shovels and metal rods.
File picture of a tiger in India.
The gruesome corpses are very real, but who’s actually doing the killing and why remains something of a mystery.
India is the last place in the world where tigers still live in the
wild—and it is home to about half of all the tigers left in the world.
For most of this century, India’s tiger population has been
dropping—from about 45,000 a century ago to about 1,400 in the mid
-2000s—mainly because of big-game hunting, first by kings and British
colonialists and more recently by poachers.
The number of tigers has started to grow again in recent years, as
the government has made efforts to reduce poaching and has relocated
more people living in the forests to give the tigers more space. But
with rapid urbanization and development, man and animal are still
competing for shrinking space. As forests and towns now increasingly
butt up against each other, tigers stray into villages, killing people
The most vulnerable people are poor villagers, who must go into the
woods to relieve themselves, or collect provisions like firewood. They
respond by setting traps to kill the tigers or help the poachers who
lurk by protected forests.
The grizzly tiger tale began early on the morning of Dec. 29 when a
21-year-old man went for his morning ablutions in a forest in the state
of Uttar Pradesh, and never returned. The villagers reportedly found his
slippers, mobile phone and half-eaten body in a sugarcane fields.
Since then, eight other people have been found in similar
circumstances. The last victim was a man who was collecting firewood
three weeks ago near his village close to a forest in Uttarakhand State.
He became the tenth victim of the tigress, which ate part of his legs
and abdomen. The villagers, who chased the tiger off with shovels, later
made an unsuccessful attempt to trap the tiger by leaving a calf as
Indian media has reported every twist in these killings, and all the
stories have pinned the deaths on a single tigress. But that story
doesn’t hold up, according to Rajesh Gopal, the head of India’s tiger
With theories swirling about the attacks, we called up Gopal to get
his take on this tiger whodunnit. He said there is plenty about the
reports that doesn’t pass the smell test, particularly the idea that
there is a single tigress behind all the vicious slayings.
Take the three deaths in Uttarakhand. Gopal said that it’s unclear
whether it was a tiger or a tigress, or even it was the same animal.
Also, he said the idea that the tiger targeted the victims is
dubious. The killings occurred at a considerable distance from each
other, which indicates that they were “chance encounters” and not a
deliberate effort to hunt and kill humans. He also noted that two deaths
occurred when the victim had gone into the national park, which also
contradicts the notion that a man-eater was covering large distances in
search of human flesh. Usually, it is older tigers, or ones that are
hurt, and who can’t hunt animals that resort to killing humans, he says.
On the seven killings in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh,
Gopal said several of these deaths had occurred in areas where there are
sugar cane fields, which provide cover for tigers that may stray out of
the forest, and these are a good source of wild pigs for the tigers.
Only two out of the seven victims, he said, had been eaten and not
Gopal said that forest officials in Uttar Pradesh need to investigate
further by installing more cameras in the forested areas to observe the
movement of these tigers. The media has also reported that the Uttar
Pradesh government has set loose three hunters to kill the menacing
tigress. “Unless the identity is established how can the tiger be
hunted,” he said. “In this case they could not capture the photos. So
how can a free reign be given to hunters?”
Gopal also said simple precautions can save lives. For instance, he
talked about the “cover dynamics of sugarcane crops.” He said if farmers
were required to start the harvest of sugarcane fields at a distance
from the forested areas, the tigers could sense that their cover is
dwindling and them to leave for safer areas.
Sat, Mar 22, 2014 1:55 AM
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prathap wrote:Bandipur Tiger Reserve devastated by fire
Read the link belowhttp://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/verdant-bandipur-devastated-by-fire/article5785568.ece
Sat, Mar 22, 2014 2:59 AM
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