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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ustad T24 - the Tiger ... now subject matter of Supreme Court case !!

In 1998 there was a case of stabbing at Thrissur but Ramachandran was ‘acquitted’ by the  court in the absence of sufficient evidence to prove the charge against him.  Years later, there was another case before the Perumbavoor first class judicial magistrate Court  related to the death of three women. On  behalf of Ramachandran,  a bond of Rs 30 lakh and surety of two persons were submitted  to secure his bail. There would hundreds of such stabbing and killing cases in every Court – why should this be of any news ?

a white tiger at Vandalur - photo credits : Ms Revathi Santhanam

Many  large predatory animals can kill at will – yet may not see humans as suitable prey – but it is stated that when they kill and taste blood – chances are they would turn  ‘man eaters’. Man-eater is a colloquial term for an animal that preys upon humans.  Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved tigers, leopards, lions and crocodilians.  There could have been chance savage attacks on  humans as prey, by many animals  including bears, Komodo dragons, hyenas, cougars, and sharks.

A few months back,  a tiger reportedly killed a woman in Pandaravalli village, in Bangalore  was captured but was released in Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary.  The decision of the Forest Department to release the captured tiger  appeared to have  backfired  with apprehensive residents of Talawade village in Khanapur taluk demanding its recapture. Like many other things, these get buried with passage of time unless fresh incidents get reported.   ‘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. One tiger, for example, was responsible for over 400 human deaths. Australian shores are croc-infested and there have been news of crocodiles being responsible of killing persons. 

Tsavo is a region of Kenya located at the crossing of the Uganda Railway over the Tsavo River, close to where it meets the Athi River. ‘Tsavo', means ‘slaughter' in the language of the Akamba people. Until the British put an end to the slave trade in the late 19th century, Tsavo was continually crossed by caravans of Arab slavers and their captives. More than a century ago, British engineers and their African and Indian labourers spent five years carving a railway through what would become Kenya in a bid to open up East Africa's interior. Along the way, close to 2,500 workers died, struck down by malaria, attacked by lions or overcome by exhaustion.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters – two maneless male lions,  are the most notorious lions in history who  over  a nine-month reign of terror, killed so many men devouring them from their sites.  Terrified workers built snares, thorn fences and bonfires to scare them off but the beasts simply crawled under or leapt over them to reach their prey. The Tsavo killings took place against a backdrop of intense environmental changes. Elephant populations had plummeted and as a result, woodlands were expanding and the savannah’s grazers were being driven away.

Now a Tiger is in Court.......  ‘Ustad’ or ‘T-24’, the ‘man-eating’ tiger of Ranthambore, escaped 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 for now. ‘Ustad’ was branded a ‘man-eater’ after he mauled to death a forest guard on May 8. 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 teh Court that the wildlife department of Jaipur had failed to take requisite permission under section 12 of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) before proceeding to translocate the tiger from the reserve.  Saying that Ustaad had been given “capital punishment without a fair trial”, the petitioner contended that  there was no forensic evidence that the particular tiger had killed the forest guard and three other people.

But for the tiger, now caught in transit between his natural habitat and a zoo, a return to the Ranthambore forest, to his female companion and her cubs, is still a long way off. On the brighter side for the big cat, a Vacation Bench, led by Justice A.K. Sikri, has ordered status quo. That means, the tiger stays on at the biological park until the Rajasthan High Court decides his fate. The High Court will hear his case on May 28.   The hearing itself was a rare gesture from the Supreme Court, which only considers urgent matters during the summer break. Mr. Singh, through counsel Sanjay Upadhyay and Salik Shafique, said ‘Ustad’ had only acted in self-defence when the guard trespassed into his territory. The tiger, he said, had merely acted to protect his family. His absence from the tiger reserve spelt danger to the tigress and the cubs left helpless in the wild, he said.

photo credit : wikipedia commons

The reference in the opening para is all about Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, 1964 born, owned by Thrissur Thechikkottukavu Peramangalthu Devaswom, one of the most valued mammoth, reportedly the second tallest elephant in Asia.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd May 2015.

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