With 11 deaths in Bandhavgarh and two deaths in Kanha tiger reserve in the last seven years, instances of tigers attacking human beings is on the rise in the state.
While the state forest department acknowledges it as an issue and is taking steps to address it, the solutions being offered are not long term and it is only a matter of time before another death could be reported.
Senior forest department officials are of the opinion that it is a high tiger density in Bandhavgarh that is responsible for bringing tigers in conflict with human beings.
The Tala zone of the reserve has about 35 tigers in 100 sq. km- one of the highest tiger densities in the country. The dispersing tiger population comes in conflict with human beings, resulting in the deaths. The reserve has about 100 villages in its buffer zone which increases the chances of conflict.
"The road from Umaria to Manpur now has very high traffic which makes it difficult for tigers to cross the road and disperse. Too much tourist pressure also irritates animals that can lead to attacks, " said erstwhile Rewa royal and former minister Pushraj Singh.
The forest department on Monday tranquilized two tigers that were responsible for recent attacks on human beings. The department wants to shift tigers from Bandhavgarh to other less densely populated reserves in the state such as Sanjay and Satpura tiger reserve.
Would this be sustainable as a long term strategy given that tiger population would increase again in Bandhavgarh? "We plan to use translocation as an active management tool and shift 10 tigers every year from Bandhavgarh to other reserves in the state," said field director, Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, CH Murlikrishna.
Insiders in Bandhavgarh also point out to a shrinking of prey base for the tigers in the last few years- an issue not acknowledged by the forest department nor corroborated by wildlife census figures.
"Prey base for the tiger has reduced by 30% mainly due to shrinking of meadows in the park and a chain link fencing that prevents dispersal of tiger population leading to added pressure on prey by tigers that remain within the fencing," said a resident of Tala in Bandhavgarh. The park management denied that prey base is an issue leading to man animal conflict.
"Cattle and human beings are easier to kill. Why would an animal (read tiger) want to hunt wild animals when cattle that are easier to hunt are available in plenty," said the field director while presenting an insight into tiger psychology.
Kanha tiger reserve, where a woman was killed on Sunday by a tiger, does not have the same issues as Bandhavgarh. There are an estimated 100 tigers in the roughly 1500 sq km reserve, yet there have been 2 incidents of killing of human beings in the reserve since 2008.