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Friday, April 1, 2016

T24 would lose its jungle regality ~ more of show piece in a Zoo

Man-Eaters of Kumaon is a book written by Jim Corbett. It details the experiences that Corbett had in the Kumaon region of India from the 1900s to the 1930s, while hunting man-eating tigers and leopards.  Man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that preys upon humans. Although human beings can be attacked by many kinds of animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved tigers, leopards, lions and crocodiles. 

photo credit : my friend Ms Revathi Santhanam

So you want eye witness accounts? If a tiger is seen near dead body, what is the inference? That he was he guarding the dead body? How can you argue on behalf of a man-eater? Human life is more important. : TS Thakur, Chief Justice of India

A few months back, I had posted on ‘T 24’ – the Tiger in Court – the ‘man-eating’ tiger of Ranthambore, escaping a caged life in a zoo by a whisker on 21.5.2015, when the Supreme Court decided that he would continue to stay in the Sajjangarh Biological Park at Udaipur in Rajasthan  .. but for  ‘Ustad’  branded a ‘man-eater’ – it was only a temporary reprieve.  The tiger mauled to death a forest guard in  May 2015.  Within days of the incident, he was drugged and translocated 530 km from Ranthambore to the Udaipur park, considered a rescue centre. There was a petition filed by  Chandra Bhal Singh, a Pune resident and tiger lover before the Court  contending  that  there was no forensic evidence that the particular tiger had killed the forest guard and three other people.  The petitioner contended that the Tiger had merely acted in self-defence !   Can there be another point of view ?

An engrossing conflict between man and animal, business and faith in the Ranthambore National Park has thrown up so many intriguing questions that India's highest courts have been drawn into the debate for answers.  At the centre of the debate is ferocious male tiger (T-24), whose behaviour gave  rise to suspicion that it has turned into a man-killer and perhaps also a man-eater. For almost nine years, tourists held him in awe and villagers in fear. It would often be seen loafing on the road that connects the Park with Ranthambhore, or seen lazing in the lawns of its busy hotels. 

      There was a time when  it killed a sambhar (a large deer) near the entrance of Jhoomar Baori-Ranthambore's oldest hotel-and sat there in full public view for hours, leading to a long queue of curious tourists and local villagers outside the hotel. A tiger that can be spotted easily is a boon for the tourism industry. Guaranteed a view and some photos (not selfies), tourists flock to a sanctuary. But the pre-requisite of this tourist-tiger relation is that the animal stay docile and allows itself to be peered at and photographed without gnashing it teeth.

It is going to be more of a show-piece as reported in Times of India of date.  In the world of crime and punishment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday (29.3.16) said tiger T-24 aka `Ustad' deserved no leniency and is rightly `jailed' in a zoo after experts opined that it was a man-eater.

Tiger conservationist Ajay Dubey through senior advocate Indira Jaising cried foul and challenged the decision to relocate `Ustad' from its natural habitat in Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary to hundreds of kilometres away in Sajjangarh Zoological Park in Udaipur in Rajasthan. Arguing before a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice R Banumathi and Justice UU Lalit, she said the decision to brand `Ustad' a man-eater was arbitrary as there was no conclusive proof with the wildlife officials to link the tiger to the four incidents of human deaths in last five years. “There is a difference between `man-eater tiger which habitually hunts humans and tigers who may have had a chance encounter with humans primarily due to provocation by humans. Tigers involved in chance encounters are not to be removed from their natural habitat and evidence against T-24 can be at best attribute his involve ment in chance encounters,“ she said.

She said the tiger might have been spotted near the dead human beings in the forest, but there was no clear evidence to suggest T-24 had killed them.
The bench asked: “So, you want eye witnesses for this?  Was the tiger guarding the body? The experts have said it is a man-eater. We are not interfering with the shifting of a man-eating tiger to a zoo. It involves safety of humans.“

Finding the court not inclined to entertain the petition on the basis of tiger-human conflict theory leading to the animal attacking persons, Jaising decided to revert to the law and rules. She said the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had in January 2013 framed a standard operating procedure (SOP) to deal with such situations where tigers attack human beings. The guidelines prescribed the manner in which a committee of experts could be formed to identify whether the tiger was guilty of unprovoked attack on human beings. “In the case of T-24 documents reveal that the Committee was not formed as per the SOP and no serious attempt was made to collect evidence to reach a conclusion that `Ustad' was a man-eater. In the absence of recourse to such safeguards, a rushed determination was made and T-24, one of the largest and most popular tigers of Ranthambore, was held responsible for attacks on human beings and relocated out of sanctuary to a zoo,“ she said.

But, the bench refused to entertain the petition and `Ustad' would lose its jungle regality to become a show piece in the zoo, pertinently asking the Q that you read at the start [highlighted]

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Mar 2016.

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