Man-eater tiger trapped by foresters in Dudhwa buffer zone
In a span of 10 days since June 18, the Khairatia area close to Manjhra Purab forests had seen four casualties due to man-animal conflict. Foresters looking for the man-eater tigress, which is still on the prowl, say officials
LUCKNOW\LAKHIMPUR KHERI\BAHRAICH People in Lakhimpur Kheri’s Khairatia village heaved a sigh of relief when a tiger, said to be one of the two big cats roaming in the Dudhwa buffer zone causing human casualties, was caged by foresters after a 10-day-long operation late on Monday night.
In a span of 10 days since June 18, the Khairatia area close to Manjhra Purab forests had seen four casualties due to man-animal conflict. The foresters were looking for the man-eater tigress, which was still on the prowl, said officials.
The man-animal conflict in the area, spread over half a dozen villages close to Dudhwa and Katarniaghat, had triggered deep resentment among locals against the officials.
Initially, the forest department had claimed the presence of two man-eater tigresses (mother-daughter) in the area, which according to locals, had so far killed around 23 people in man-animal conflicts in Lakhimpur Kheri villages.
The Forest department team searching for the big cats, however, said the tigress still seemed to be on the prowl. As per a press note, the forest department confirmed that the big cat captured in the cage was a tiger.
Officials also clarified that initial claims about the presence of two tigresses were made on the basis of visuals from the camera trap that captured the pictures of two big cats.
“On the basis of the head size and body movement, one big cat was identified to be the tigress while the visuals of another big cat were not clear enough, and hence, initially we took it as a tigress. But the big cat captured in the cage was a tiger. Efforts to capture the tigress are on,” read the press note.
Officials also didn’t rule out the possibility of the presence of more than one big cat in the area.
Foresters said the moment of success came around 2am when one of the big cats gradually approached the bait, placed at the entrance of the cage installed in Khairatia village.
“We placed the cage near the hut of local priest Mohan Das, who was killed by the big cat on June 18 in Khairatia village. This was the point where the big cat was spotted the most. A teenage boy, Ram Singh, and a woman Mindo Kaur, 30, were also killed in a man-animal conflict in the same village on June 22 and June 27, respectively,” said Amit Kumar, sub divisional officer (SDO).
Kumar said initially the big cat approached the bait and left. “But it returned soon after and all we could hear in the dark was the noise of the iron gate that closed soon after the big cat caught hold of the bait,” he said.
Soon after one big cat was trapped, another one came and sat at the gate for a while and then left, said foresters.
The captured tiger, which is 6-7 years old, will not be shifted to a zoo immediately and will be kept under observation for 12-24 hours. “From the analysis of the pugmarks captured by the cameras at the places where human casualties took place, it would be ascertained whether the captured tiger or the tigress caused the casualties,” said Sanjay Kumar Pathak, field director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
An appropriate decision will be taken by the UP chief wildlife warden after the analysis, which may take a day, he added.
Over the past seven months, Narendra Nagar Beli, Khairatia, Majhra Purab, Dalrajpur, Murtiya, Naurangabad and Jasnagar villages situated on the borders of Dudhwa forest witnessed several casualties due to attacks by big cats.
The big cat’s attack on Mindo Kaur, 30, was the latest casualty reported in Khairatia village on Monday afternoon when she was working in a field. Pargat Singh, head of the village, said caging of one big cat brought the much needed relief to villagers. However, as one tigress was still on the prowl, he urged people not to venture out alone till the big cat was caged.
Sanjay Pathak, field director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, said the hunt for the tigress was on. “We have deputed four teams to tranquilize the big cat and deputed four elephants to carry out combing in the area. Besides, three drone cameras and over three dozen camera traps have been installed in the area to cage the tigress at the earliest,” he said.
He said four tranquilizing experts from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Lucknow Zoo authority, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR) apart from Dudhwa had been hired along with two biologists for assisting the operation.