Sharp-shooters in Kerala on the trail of a ‘man-eater’ tiger during lockdown
The residents of a Kerala village have hardly stepped out of their houses for a week now, and not just because of the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 13,000-odd residents of Thannithode village in central Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district have been forced to stay put in their homes because of a tiger which killed one person last week.
Three sharp-shooters, 50 forest and district officials and some villagers have since then been on the trail of the big cat which strayed into human habitat and killed a rubber tapper.
Though the officials and the villagers put up a cage with a goat in it to catch the big cat, but it attacked a cow instead.
It all began with the attack on the 38-year-old rubber tapper Bineesh Mathew on May 6. When his colleagues heard cries for help and rushed to him, they found a tiger dragging him to a nearby bush. After they pelted stones and tried to distract the tiger by making noises, the animal left a dead Mathew and went back in to the forest.
“It is a big tiger. It is either aged or injured. This happened around 12 noon,” said T Mathew, another tapper, who witnessed the attack.
Following the death of the tapper, Pathanamthitta district collector PB Nooh declared prohibitory orders in the village.
After the incident, the animal was sighted at many places and attacked several cows, goats and dogs in the area. Though the forest officials have spotted the tiger through night vision cameras and drones, it is yet to be caught.
“We have faced threats of elephants, wild boars and other animals. But this is the first time we are facing the tiger threat. It was spotted at many places before the attack. We dread to even allow our children outside our house,” said MS Indira, a panchyat member of the area.
The village is situated on the fringes of a deep forest. Indira said that the tiger has evoked more fear in the villagers than the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wildlife experts say tiger attacks are very rare in Kerala which houses two tiger reserves and five wildlife sanctuaries,.
“We are trying our best to tranquillise it and shift it to deep forests. Many top forest and vet officials are camping in the area and will try their best to capture it alive. If they do not succeed, we will shoot it,” said state forest minister K Raju who announced a relief of Rs 10 lakh to the family members of the victim.
However, conservationists have asked authorities to relocate the animal instead of shooting it.
In November 2018, a female tiger Avani was shot dead in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal by a hunter hired by the forest department. The tigress had Avni had allegedly killed 13 people since June 2016, forcing the forest department to initiate a hunt for her. Her killing had led to widespread protests by the animal rights activists leading to the state government initiating a probe into the animal’s killing which was closed in February 2019.
However, the Uddhav Thackeray-led state government reopened investigations into the killing of tigress T1 or Avni in January this year.