Nagpur: Increasingly in Vidarbha forests, we hear of instances of man – animal conflict where the two live in close proximity and some tribals will not give up their age old practise of taking their cattle into the forest, though they are welcomed by farmers in their fields for the manure they leave behind.
One such ‘Gond’ man was killed recently in the Kanha-Kisli jungles of M.P. when he adamantly took 20 of his cows and buffaloes into the jungle. A tiger lurking there attacked and killed one of his animals. This man then proceeded to take a stick and attacked the tiger who just had to take one swipe of its paw to kill his attacker. The tiger then proceeded to take its ‘kill’ of the animal into the deeper forests to consume it at leisure and leave the dead man behind.
Unfortunately such tigers also start getting the ‘tag’ of being human killers and villagers turn hostile against them. Often times, as happened in Melghat last year, they take the initiative and kill the tiger(s) by poisoning and dispose off the bodies without consulting or complaining to the Forest Dept.
An adult male tiger killed by electrocution this Diwali
Sandeep Vaidya, farmer owning land in village Venkatpur surrounded by forest lands had installed an electric fencing round his farm. This was to prevent his produce from being eaten by wild boars.
But on 2nd November evening, as he was preparing to go home he saw a full grown tiger apparently lying dead outside his farm. Fearing the worst – that his electric fence must have killed the beast – instead of informing the Forest Dept. about it he hastily called two villagers and had them dig a hole on his farm and buried the body of the tiger.
Yet, such a sensational news could not be buried and word finally reached the forest officers of the area. Forest officer Baba Hathe reached the spot and took Sandeep and the villagers into custody. Sandeep himself showed the spot where the tiger had been buried. His body has now been exhumed and sent for post mortem.
A new experiment to preserve tigers
Even as such public pressure to eliminate animals that have supposedly turned man eaters has multiplied in the last few months , the Brahmapuri Forest Division near Nagpur has chosen to try a new experiment. A radio-collared tigress, responsible for the death of cattle and humans that was trapped on Friday afternoon, was successfully relocated to Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary near Tadoba with the help of a team of experts from Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
In the last 3-6 months, there had been increasing incidents of cattle kills near the human habitation in the Bramhapuri Forest Range. “Then there was also the death in Saigaon village, along with three instances of humans getting injured because of the tigress. So the state’s Chief Wildlife Warden gave us permission to capture the tigress and relocate it to the Chaprala sanctuary,” said Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) (Territorial) Chandrapur, Vijay Shelke.
The forest department officials and scientists said they felt that the relocation of this tigress to the 134-sqkm sanctuary would give them valuable data about the movement of this tigress. Senior scientist Dr Bilal Habib from the WII said, “Following the incidents of cattle kills and human death and injures due to a tigress, the forest department decided to capture the tigress and safely release in the sanctuary. Now, because of the radio collar, we will be able to generate important data about its movement pattern and behaviour, which will be very helpful.”
The database of its movement pattern in the new landscape will give valuable information to the scientists like the activity pattern of the tigress (day and night movement pattern). According to the officials, its previous habitation had human population in its vicinity, but in the new habitat has decent natural prey so it might not deviate again.
Man killers not necessarily Man eaters, says Tiger expert
There is a wide difference between tigers who kill humans when encroached upon or threatened and ‘Man eaters’ says Dr. Nishi Mukherjee who has worked extensively for Tiger preservation.
A Man eater is one who deliberately seeks out humans to kill them specifically to eat human meat. A tigers turns man eater for 3 basic reasons:
It is too old to hunt its normal prey and humans being an easy substitute since they are the easiest ‘prey’ to hunt. So sheer hunger drives him to turn man eater.
When it is injured, has bones broken or has lost teeth. It will again turn man eater out of sheer hunger and lack of ability to run and hunt.
A tigress when she has cubs. Tigers being at the top of the food chain are very unpopular with all other animal species like leopards, wild dogs, hyenas who will kill a tiger cub at the first opportunity. This makes their mother very ferocious and protective. If humans venture near her cubs she will kill them too, but not necessarily eat them.
This is the distinction that both villagers and forest dept officials have to understand.