A tiger has been on the prowl for about a month in the Kundakere range of the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka, killing as many as 19 livestock in April/May and creating fear among villagers. However, park officials have been slow to act in capturing the tiger.
The big cat killed its first cattle prey in the second week of April in Kadabur, one of the villages on the fringes of the Kundakere range, and has continued attacking domestic animals since then. The delay in the capture of the tiger has resulted not only in repeated cattle kills in the vicinity, but residents of Kadabur, Kundakere, Chirakanahalli and surrounding villages are now hesitant to venture out into the fields to guard their crops fearing an attack by the tiger.
However, efforts by park officials to drive the straying tiger back to the forest using tamed elephants combing the villages have not yielded positive results. Despite their efforts, the tiger has been attacking cattle at regular intervals.
One of the reasons these big cats stray into villages, sources say, is that weak and old tigers usually settle on the edge of the forest and prey on slow moving animals. Another reason cited is a tiger losing its territory to another dominant tiger.
A village resident who lives close to the Kundakere range said that the tiger killed three cows, a calf and two sheep in a single day. This occurred a couple of days ago. Though the tiger killed the cattle it could not feast on the carcass because it was disturbed by villagers.
The state Forests and Environment Minister Anand Singh visited Kadabur on Sunday and directed officials to capture the tiger.
In September and October 2019, when a tiger killed two people in villages bordering the Gopalaswamy Betta range and the Kundakere range, it was captured using tranquillisers.
According to sources, three tigers are often sighted in the Kundakere periphery but two of them are resident tigers who do not attack humans or prey on cattle. But recently, a tiger has migrated to Kundakere and taken to killing cattle in the periphery villages creating panic among the villagers.
Manjunath, a resident of Kadabur, was critical of the steps being taken by the Bandipur National Park officials to capture the straying tiger. He said that apart from combing the village areas forest officials have done nothing substantial to catch the tiger and give villagers the confidence to return to the fields. “They have simply wasted money by engaging in combing operations,” he added.
A source said that a committee was formed as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) only 15 days after the tiger made its first kill, that too after pressure from environmentalists.
“We don’t know why Bandipur officials don’t constitute a committee as and when an emergency situation arises,” an environmentalist said.
Moreover, he said that there has to be a scientific study on why tigers stray from the park, as NTCA says that where there is history of an emergency situation with tigers, a detailed study is needed to find the causes for the tigers venturing out. But, this has not been done in Bandipur so far.
According to the environmentalist, tigers straying out of the forest has been reported in Gundre range, Maddur ranges of Bandipur, and also in Nagarahole National Park.
“Capturing such tigers and shifting them to the rehabilitation centre in Mysuru is not the long-term solution for the problem. Adequate steps have to be initiated to prevent tigers from straying out of the parks through a scientific approach to the problem,” he opined.
Park officials say that the cattle-killing tiger is about 5 years old and a healthy one. Often this big cat is sighted in overgrown private lands left uncultivated by the owners, offering refuge to the straying tiger.
“We have advised villagers not to take their grazing animals too close to the forest borders, but they don’t listen to our requests and their livestock come under tiger attacks,” a park officer said.
The official said that a committee has been formed with the Chief Conservator of Forests, Mysuru, the Conservator of Forests, Bandipur National Park, two representatives from wildlife NGOs, a villager, and a veterinarian from Bandipur National Park as its members. The committee will chalk out a plan to capture the tiger through sedation and that the big cat will be caught before it resorts to attacking humans, the officer said.
Girisha is a freelancer who reports on wildlife and the environment.