Male tiger, suspected of killing 8 people, captured from Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district
The Maharashtra forest department on Tuesday captured an elusive male tiger, aged about five to six years, near Sindhi village in Rajura forest at Central Chanda, Chandrapur. The tiger, RT1, is suspected to have killed eight people and injured three others since January 2019.
RT1 had evaded all the capture efforts since February this year, when the chief wildlife warden had issued orders to capture the wild cat.
Forest officials said the tiger was captured in a two-hour operation with a special-designed trapping cage placed under a narrow railway underpass where a bait had been kept at compartment number 179 in the Rajura forest area.
“The animal was captured between 3pm and 4pm within the culvert. Once the tiger entered the cage, the automatic trap doors were shut, and a team of veterinarians were deployed to the site. One of the veterinarians darted the animal and by 5pm, the tiger was shifted to a separate (transport) cage that was transported to Chandrapur transit treatment centre. The animal will be shifted to Gorewada rescue centre in Nagpur on Tuesday night,” said MK Rao, acting principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF -wildlife), Maharashtra forest department, adding, “The entire process was followed as per the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).”
The trapping team headed by deputy conservator of forest (Central Chanda) Arvind Mundhe consisted of around 150 people, with 25 Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) officers, employees from the Central Chanda forest division and four veterinarians assisted by staff members, along with 35 volunteers from 14 villages in the region.
“Teams were equipped with night vision and CCTV cameras and were well-versed with the landscape. There had been fear in the minds of the villagers as the tiger had become a threat to human life. The trapping team swiftly carried out the operation,” said Rao.
The range of the tiger’s movement was 15 to 20 square kilometres (sq km) in the Rajura forest area, said officials.
Chandrapur chief conservator of forest NR Praveen said, “This trap had been placed around 15 days back. We had been monitoring the tiger’s movement and had tracked it to this special cage set up with automatic trap doors on either sides of the culvert. Once the tiger entered, the automatic trap doors from both sides dropped and a team headed by Dr Kundan Podshelwar darted the animal soon after reaching the spot. Collective effort by all persons involved ensured success of the operation.”
Praveen added that as per the preliminary examination, the tiger was healthy. Forest officials said the tiger had eaten close to 30 baits during the course of various capture operations.
Last week, the tiger had entered another cage set up in compartment number 170 in Rajura forest under a bridge but escaped by breaking the cage.
“Forest staff was holding onto ropes pulling up the steel gate of the main cage. Unfortunately, we failed then but ensured we managed to trap the animal much before the capture tenure that would lapse on December 31,” said Praveen.
The first permission to capture the tiger was issued by the PCCF-Wildlife on February 14 by invoking section 11 (1) (a) of the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA), 1972, in which the PCCF of a state can declare a wild animal protected under Schedule 1 of WLPA a threat to human life. Since then, the permissions have been extended four times as the tiger evaded all the capture efforts over eight months.
Activists, however, had written to the state government on Monday requesting chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to avoid the tiger’s capture until there was proof that the tiger had been involved in killing all the eight people.
RT1’s last kill was reported from the Khambada forest area in Rajura on September 28.
“All the kills cannot be attributed to RT1. Of the eight deaths, samples of five cases were sent for DNA analysis. Results had confirmed that two cases were due to a large male tiger. However, in other incidents, the gender could not be established,” said Mundhe.
Six tigers captured from Maharashtra this year
This is the sixth tiger involved in human-animal conflict captured from Maharashtra and fourth from Chandrapur district alone this year. Maharashtra has witnessed the highest number of human deaths (33) owing to tiger attacks in 2020 in at least two decades, with over 85% of cases recorded in Chandrapur district.
An approximately two-year-old sub-adult tigress (T2C1) was tranquilised and captured by the Maharashtra forest department near the Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) in Yavatmal district on September 23.
Another tiger that killed four people was captured in Gondia in May.
In June, forest officials had captured a sub-adult male tiger that killed five people from the buffer area of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, and an adult tigress that had entered a house in Nagbhid range of Brahmapuri. However, both died at the Gorewada Rescue Centre due to old age and septicaemia.
In July, a three-year-old male tiger (NT-1) was captured at Talodi range, Bramhapuri forest division in Chandrapur. It is said to be responsible for the death of three people.