In a repeat of Delhi Zoo case, a young tiger in Bandhavgarh forest mauled a person on Friday after he teased the two-year-old big cat in a bid to shoo him away with a wooden stick.
The killing of the retired teacher identified as Lakra Singh, who ventured deep inside the forest, had caused unrest in the tiger habitat with the locals demanding that the tiger should be declared as a man-eater, said a local Madhya Pradesh forest official.
The demand supported by local political groups is being resisted by the forest officials and tiger experts.
"This tiger is not a man-eater. The killing is not his fault but we will investigate how it happened," said MP’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Narendra Kumar. "The person went to the restricted forest area and panicked at seeing the tiger sitting on a cliff. The tiger attacked him only after he tried to frighten him."
Villagers set the forest office at Khitoli village in Katni district on fire after the incident. Khitoli village falls in Barhi forest range and is close to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Katni superintendent of police Rajesh Hingankar said the office of forest department was damaged. A police team has been deployed at the spot, he said.
Fayaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist, who has worked extensively in tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh, said the tiger did not enter a village and attack the person. "It was the other way around. One cannot punish a tiger for no fault of his," he added.
The tiger along with a cub is moving in and around the core and buffer areas of Bandhavgarh tiger reserve since January to determine his home territory, a key component for tigers to breed in future. However, this tiger has not entered any local village or even attacked local cattle hinting at he having no signs of turning into a man-eater.
Five years ago, a tigress killed a person inside Bandhavgarh tiger reserve but was declared a man-eater after pressure from locals. She was relocated to a local zoo and forced to live in jail-like conditions, Khudsar said.
Madhya Pradesh, which lost the tag of being the tiger state of India five years ago, has seen an increase in man-tiger conflict. At least five tigers have been accused of killing locals in Bandhavgarh this year but, fortunately, not even a single has been declared man-eater.
Kumar said a proper investigation will be done before deciding on the demand of locals to declare the young tiger a man-eater.