Two tiger cubs involved in killing four people in the past seven months, including a teacher, were captured in an almost four-hour long operation on Monday morning near Khitoli range of Bandhavgarh National Park.
Later, the cubs (siblings) - about one year and nine months old - were released in separate enclosures in Magdi range of the national park.
Seven elephants and about 70 people including officers, veterinary teams and labourers were involved in the operation that was led by principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Narendra Kumar.
"The tigers have been captured and shifted to enclosures. We took the step to minimise human conflict and consequent risk to human life," the PCCF told HT over telephone. He clarified that though the tiger cubs have been involved in human killings during the last few months, they are not man-eaters.
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The operation was planned after villagers attacked a forest post in Khitoli village under Barhi range of the national park on Friday to protest the killing of a teacher, Lakra Singh, by one of these two cubs.
The cubs, who could be called sub-adults according to forest officials as they have grown to almost full size, have killed four people including a woman and a hunchback man since March this year. The incidents occurred on March 4 (a woman), May 27 (a man) July 21 (hunchback man) and finally on October 24, when the teacher was killed.
Either one or both the cubs also ate the hunchback victim, yet they could not be called 'maneaters' because they have not deliberately killed human beings and are still preying upon wild animals and domestic cattle for sustenance.
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"They ate the hunchback man, mistaking him for a four-legged being due to the body posture," Bandhavgarh field director CH Muralikrishnan told HT.
The field director mentioned that the plan is to shift both the cubs to some other tiger reserve or national park in near future, so that they could grow up in the wilderness. Satpura National Park had been identified for the purpose, but the shifting could not happen because of some rehabilitation issues.
The operation to capture the cubs commenced on Monday at 6am with seven elephants sent to locate and encircle the tigers in Panpatha buffer range of the national park. This step was completed at 8.45am after which the veterinary team moved in and tranquilised the cubs. They were captured around 9.30am; their height and weight measured and blood samples taken.
They were revived using medical procedure and taken to Magdi range and released in separate enclosures. The entire operation was completed at 2pm, the field director said.
Along with the Bandhavgarh team, the rescue team of Panna National Park also participated in the operation. Dr Sanjeev Gupta of Panna National Park and Dr Nitin Gupta of Bandhavgarh National Park played the most important part of tranquilising and revival, the field director said.