Devika Devi, who was killed in Sunderkhal village near the Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, became the 25th victim of a fatal tiger attack in India in the last 13 months.
Wildlife experts suggest the increase in tiger population due to the country's success in big cat management and checking poaching may have a link with the increasing tiger-human conflict, which also claimed eight tigers.
Between 2006 and 2010, the number of tigers is estimated to have risen by increase by at least 100 from 1,411.
"Increase in tiger population in areas such as Corbett is one of the reasons for the rising conflict," said Vivek Menon, chief executive officer of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, however, says poaching and increase in human interference may be the primary causes for rising conflict.
Over the four years, tiger habitat has either remained stagnant or shrunk. "At least 10 new hotels and resorts have come up in the buffer zone of Corbett in the last few years...” says a forest official.In Ranthambore tiger reserve — over 700 km south-west of Corbett — the rise in tiger population has not only left three persons dead in the past year, it has caused migration of at least four tigers. Tigers using traditional forest corridors, which were dense forests till 1970s, reached Kuno and Morina, Madhya Pradesh and Kota and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.
“Constant habitat destruction and illegal mining is causing the wildlife stress,” Dharmendra Kandhal, a Ranthambore-based wildlife biologist said.
Dhonia Devi, who lost her niece in a tiger attack in January, says: “...We hear tigers almost every night these days...”
The conflict is unique to tigers as they are territorial animals. “A 10-sq-km area is normally the territory marked by a tiger, where only the stronger male can live,” says PK Sen, former director of Project Tiger. The core tiger area in the country has shrunk to 31,207 sq km in 37 reserves as compared to over one lakh sq km in the 1970s.