Chasing a ‘man-eater’: 100 men in pursuit of one tiger in Rajasthan
The predator is moving from one village to the other, taking refuge in ravines and thickets, with forest officials close on its heels.Updated: Aug 09, 2019 11:42 IST
For a week now, around 100 forest and district administration officials in Rajasthan’s Karauli district have been spending almost 15 hours every day to track a tiger. The hunt is for the big cat - a man-eater - who has strayed out of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in neighbouring Sawai Madhopur.
It begins at 6am and ends at 9pm -- in vain!
The tiger, which lost its territory in the reserve to a rival tiger, came dangerously close to Karauli city on July 31 and killed a man. When forest officials were informed, they set out to look for pug marks and set up camera traps. It was caught on camera three days later, on August 3, when forest officials identified it as T-104 from the radio collar around its neck.
The predator is moving from one village to the other, taking refuge in ravines and thickets, with forest officials close on its heels. On July 31, it was in Durgeshi Ghata, from there it moved to Badwala Talab the next day. Its pug marks were found in ravines in Khoobnagar village on August 2, and the tiger was in Makanpura when it was caught on camera trap on August 3.
On August 4, the tiger sat in ravines and killed the bait but did not eat it. On August 5, it came within 2km of human habitation in Chainpur village, and was closeted in a thicket between Gurjar Baoli and Narayana villages the next day. On August 7, it was localized in the forests around a cow shelter in the Masalpur area.
“Even during nights, a team of five forest officials, including those with radio receivers, follow the tiger in a Gypsy even as they try to localize the big cat,” Deputy conservator of forest (DCF) and deputy director of Ranthamore National Park, Hemant Singh, said.
He added that the team shot two darts on Tuesday to tranquilize the tiger but missed hitting it.
A conservationist from Ranthambore said T-104 killed a 40-year-old woman in February this year when she was defecating in the open.
“The tiger has killed two humans and eaten parts of bodies so it is a threat to humans in areas where it is moving. At the same time, the tiger also faces threat from humans as it may get attacked and killed,” added the conservationist, who did not want to be named.
“T-104 had a territorial fight with T-64 in May this year and was injured. When it was tranquilized for treatment, a VHS radio collar was put around its neck,” Singh said.
Earlier, a GPS-enabled collar was fitted on the tiger but it dropped it a few days later, said another Ranthambore official on condition of anonymity.
Ranthambore field director Manoj Parashar said they were unsure if the tiger had killed the man in Karauli because villagers said the tiger was not wearing radio collar.
However, the conservationist quoted above said it was naïve to go by the version of villagers who may not have seen a tiger in their lifetime, leave alone a collared animal. “A lobby in the forest department is trying to prove that the tiger that killed the man in Karauli is different from T-104,” he said.
The tiger has put the forest department in a quandary about where to relocate it after it is tranquilized. It cannot be sent back to Ranthambore from where it has already been pushed out by other, more dominant males. In Kailadevi sanctuary, there are more than 60 villages, which will face threat from the big cat. The third option is sending it to Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve but the department is unsure if the new reserve will accept a tiger involved in conflicts.
Former wildlife officers said the lobby that was against declaring T-24 a man-eater in May 2015 is now caught in a dilemma of how to declare T-104 a man-eater.
In 2015, the decision to move T-24 out of the wild to a zoo in Udaipur in the larger interest of tiger conservation in Ranthambore caused uproar by wildlife activists who said the tiger was not a man-eater and his attacks on humans were chance encounters.
First Published: Aug 09, 2019 11:40 IST