No winners in the man-animal conflict
With about 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild, they need us now more than ever
A six-year-old tigress suspected of having killed 13 people over the past two years in the hills of central India was shot dead by hunters under controversial circumstances last week. While the killing of the mother of two nine-month-old cubs triggered celebrations by villagers in the area stalked by the big cat, wildlife activists were furious – and with good reason. The latest incident in the man-animal conflict, which comes just days after another tigress (Sundari in Odisha) was blamed for killing a woman whose post-mortem report was inconclusive, shows that we need to get better at dealing with such cases.
The hunter who fired the bullet that killed tigress Avni said he did so in self-defence after a tranquiliser dart failed to stop her from charging at him. A question being asked is: Should the wildlife officials not have foreseen such a circumstance? Experts feel a well-planned operation would have taken the possibility into account, ensuring safety structures to guard against this. While there is little doubt in Avni’s case that the tigress was responsible for human killings, we need to consider the larger debate surrounding the intensifying conflict between humans and wild animals.
Animal rights activists argue such big cats should not be called ‘man-eaters’ because they don’t trespass into human habitats to kill people — it’s the other way around. The World Wildlife Fund says tigers are mostly solitary and have large territories. The wild animal, however, is facing dogged pressures from retaliatory killings and poaching amid habitat loss to humans. Killing is the easy option. The world has lost 95% of its wild tigers since the 20th century began. With only about 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild, they need us now more than ever.