Mudumalai Man Eater – A Tragic Tiger Tale

Regarding the Gudalur / Mudumalai man eater tiger, many people have been posting their views. Predominantly most have been of the view that the tiger should have been trapped / tranquilized and relocated to a different location / zoo. The forest department has been accused of killing an innocent tiger to protect the evil humans who have occupied the tiger’s land, cut down forests for selfish human greed, etc.
This post is an attempt to clear the air over the role played by the forest department in this “Tiger Murder Saga”, the reasons for their actions, what are the points to be noted for similar instances in future.

What actually happened:

– Sourced from Wildlife Nature and Conservation Trust
Male tiger around 9 years of age, badly wounded in supposed territorial combat with another tiger. Probably, it could have been pushed away from its territory in Kerala side into the forests bordering the Tamilnadu side and entered the tea estates. It had maggots in both its wounds and had internal injury also. Hence it could not have hunted any natural prey, that could have been the reason, why it started attacking slow moving human beings. While the team encountered the tiger, it was half of its original size. Even if the capture could have happened, the tiger could not have sustained the sedation process due to its ill health.

  • The first victim was an old man who had one out to answer nature’s call
  • The second victim was a lady returning after a hard day’s labor in the tea estate
  • The third victim was a young man and one more injured person is still in critical condition

Location and Conditions at Site

The geographical and demo graphical impact on the operation, the area, where this entire operation took place is near the border town of Gudalur in Nilgiris district, where the prime occupation is agriculture, tea and coffee plantations. The first kill took place inside the reserve in Kerala, but the second kill happened in an estate in Bitherkad, which created a lot of uproar among the local population. People protested in the main road with the dead body of the woman for 24 hours, only after the shooting order, they removed the body. The entire administration was put into lot of pressure, which gave way to shooting order.

If the operation had not happened, it would have hit the conservation in the area badly. The whole area was like a battle field with the public up with arms to deal the administration and wildlife alike. Hence a lot of work need to be done in Public awareness and coordinating the administration and Political system.Finally, we cannot end this post without appreciating the Forest department of Tamilnadu and Kerala for the co-ordination and effort they put in containing the public as well as the tiger in last one week.

A point to note here is the local public was agitating for immediate capture / killing of the tiger and higher compensation for the victim, when a few outside elements instigated violence and destroyed forest department property including burning of 3 jeeps, damaging couple of other jeeps, ransacking for forest department offices, stealing of personal belongings of forest department personnel, attacking police and forest staff

What Action was taken on the ground and the reasons for these actions by the Forest Department

Reply from a sincere forest officer – C. Badrasamy

Question: Dont we have the means to capture the tiger alive?

Answer:
Even though we dont have facilities like a few foreign countries, we have enough facilities like trap cages, trained forest veterinarians, Dart guns with telescopic sights (DisInject) and staff who are dedicated and bold enough to takle any situation, experienced trackers, experienced and motivated senior officers.

But to dart / tranquilize a tiger,

  • One should have a clear view of the tiger
  • The distance shouldnt be more than 30 meters
  • There shouldnt be a wind flow
  • Should be daylight with clear visibility
  • The tiger should be immobile / stand in a spot till the dart is fired.
  • There should be no disturbances like plants / creeprs, or bushes.

Problems with Darting a tiger

As the dart syringe is made of plastic, even a slight wind can change the direction / aim of the dart
Once the tiger is darted, If the tiger starts to run, it is difficult to follow it. One should have a protective ring to save oneself from an attack by the tiger. The dart takes half an hour to 45 minutes to affect the tiger. The tiger shouldn’t escape within that time frame. Or we should be in a location where it is easy to track the escaping tiger. If all these points are favorable, then one can consider using a dart.

Caging / Trapping the Tiger

Caging is easy. But the tiger should come to the location where the cage is placed. Each cage weighs 500 kg. Minimum of 20 to 30 people are required to handle the cage. Lifting the heavy age, it has to be setup on steep sloppy terrain. To do this, there should some semblance of a path. This year, the FD has made a few ages which can be dismantled and 6 people are enough to carry it around. No other animal like a goat or do should be used as a bait. Or else the NGOs like Bluecross or PETA wont allow it. If one keeps meat as a bait, not all tigers come for it as traditionally tigers like to hunt and eat. When the cage is placed near a village, a do or a pig shouldn’t get caught in it or else the whole day’s effort would be a waste. If the cage is placed near a village, a stray dog or a pig can get caught in the trap cage when it comes to eat the meat. The whole day would be wasted

All Important Issue is the patience of the villagers. They keep chasing the forest department personnel constantly for instant results, trying to crowd the location, thus disturbing the atmosphere required to capture / divert a wild animal. Villagers also have a few unique problems like no inhouse sanitation. They have to go out into the bushes for their early morning chores. They return late at night mostly under influence of alcohol after their day’s work. Even old people who cant see properly tend to stay outside their houses as most of them stay in run down shacks doubling as houses. With dwindling eyesight, not able to run fast, these people are easy target for a injured man eater. Statistics show that most of the human deaths caused by elephants are people above 50 years of age.

Another age group is the innocent school children. For how long can they be deprived of their education and mid day meals?

Daily wage workers cant stay cooped up in fear of the tiger in their homes for long. If they miss a day of labor, they miss their salary.

What if there is another death before we catch the tiger?

Already people burnt jeeps, assaulted and stole personal belongings of our staff, so much anger in the hamlets….

People who are not aware of the situation say the anger of the local population is due to the tiger killing a woman. But it is a clear case of anti social elements and people with vested interests from outside the conflict zone who instigated the violence among the peaceful protests of the locals.

Some pictures of the arson and killed tiger

 

Issues of Conflicts and Possible Solutions

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