Villagers residing around the Navegaon National Park in Gondia district in eastern part of Vidarbha have been living under constant fear after a “man-eating” tiger has killed five women since December 15 in Morgaon Arjuni, Lakhandur and Sadak Arjuni areas.
Villagers from these areas have been protesting against the forest officials and have demanded that the tiger be killed.
The elusive tiger was reportedly seen on Sunday around 7pm near Salai Bolde jungle near Navegaon National Park.
However, neither did the forest personnel succeed in tranquilizing the big cat nor kill it to provide relief to the villagers.
According to the state forest headquarters in Nagpur, ten teams of forest personnel, along with armed police, veterinary doctors and villagers have launched a massive hunt for the tiger.
The victims of the big cat were identified as: Bhagyashree Ramakrishna Neware (20) of Bhiwakhidki, Chhaya Deshpande (50) of Manegaon, Muktabai Ganvir (48) of Salebardi, Meerabai Bahekar (48) of Gudri and Vandana Meshram of Chikhli village.
The state wildlife warden and the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), SWH Naqvi, informed that seven baits have been placed in different parts to trap the elusive man-eater.
“We will try to tranquilize it. If this fails we will shoot the big cat,” he added. The chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has also directed the state wildlife wing that killing of the tiger would be the last resort, if the department fails to tranquilize it.
The assistant conservator of forests (ACF), wildlife wing, Kishore Mishrikotkar who has been camping at the site, made it clear that there was no man-eater within the Navegaon National Park precincts, adding that there has been no news of tiger devouring any human.
The tiger’s attack may be out of aggressive behaviour or insecurity on its part.
“People do not realize that they are encroaching the tiger domain making the tiger feel insecure complicating the matter,” says Kishore Rithe, president of Satpuda Foundation and member of National Wildlife Board.
Arjuni Morgaon legislator Rajkumar Badole, however, expressed his dissatisfaction over the functioning of forest officials.
“Why are the officials not taking any firm step to get rid of tiger menace?” he questioned and pointed out that the tiger has terrified the local population in the area. He said that the tiger should not be kept alive at the cost of human being.
A full-grown tiger was shot dead by a team of forest and police personnel near Bramhapuri jungle in Chandrapur district, bordering Tadoba tiger reserves, when it killed eight villagers, in October 2007.
Four sharp shooters, who were involved in the operation, were part of the team that fired 21 rounds to end the big cat’s reign of terror.
Navegaon National Park is in Gondia district, some 150kms from Nagpur. The state wildlife wing has decided to upgrade the 257 sq km wildlife sanctuary as a tiger project, along with nearby wildlife sanctuary, Nagzira.
Its home to five tigers, a dozen leopards, sloth bears and other endangered wildlife species. The state government has increased the area of Navegaon for conservation and protection of big cats.