Villagers who venture into forests to graze cattle in and around the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve in MP have been asked by the park management to wear helmets and chest guards while doing so.
The management considers cattle grazers as the most vulnerable group to tiger attacks and thinks the protective gear will prevent grazers from being killed in the eventuality of an attack.
A series of tiger attacks on human beings in the forests adjoining the park prompted the management to work on this out-of-the-box approach.
The most recent attack on a grazer took place on August 22 when Sonelal Rai was killed by a tiger in Damokhar range. In the last one and a half years, four people have been killed in tiger attacks in Khitauli and Damokhar ranges of the reserve.
Irate villagers had blocked the Umaria highway demanding the park management to look into the matter.
“We spoke on the issue to the residents of villages in Damokhar range where about 3 tigers are roaming. They agreed to accept helmets and chest guards given by us. We have ordered about 50 helmets from Katni,” said field director, Bandhavgarh, CH Murlikrishna. Chest guards are often used by the riot police.
The helmets and chest guards would be distributed in about 12 villages.
“Each village has 2 or 3 designated grazers who would be expected to carry the helmets with them. Besides this, the park management has decided to also look into the possibility of making bamboo hides that grazers can jump into in case confronted by a tiger in the forest,” said Murlikrishna.