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Sunday, October 3, 2021

Online campaign to Save Tiger and .. .. people of Nilgiris !!

When a man kills a Tiger – it is called Sport; when Tiger kills man, it is ferocity – a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw. 

Tiger in a zoo, photo taken by me 

An engrossing conflict between man and animal, business and faith in the Ranthambore National Park  threw open many intriguing questions that India's highest courts  were drawn into the debate for answers.  At the centre of the debate was s ferocious male tiger (T-24), which had been seen loafing on the road that connects the Park with Ranthambhore, or seen lazing in the lawns of its busy hotels.   Arguing before a bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice R Banumathi and Justice UU Lalit,  a Senior advocate 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.  The bench asked: “So, you want eye witnesses for this?  Was the tiger guarding the body? – and what is the inference when an animal is seen near the body of a human mauled and killed !!

In the circuses of Ancient Rome, exotic beasts were commonly pitted against each other – and there are different accounts of which of these animals gained the victory.  In late 19th century,  Gaekwad of Baroda,  arranged a fight in an amphitheater, between a magnificent prime wild Barbary lion called 'Atlas', from the Atlas Mountains between Algeria and Morocco, and a man-eating Bengal tiger from the Indian region of Shimla, both large and hungry (with their diets reduced before the fight), before an audience of thousands.  

Tamil Nadu Chief Wildlife Warden Shekar Kumar Niraj issued an order to hunt ‘T23’, a tiger, which is said to have killed four persons so far, including a 55-year-old man on Friday, in Nilgiris district after concluding that the big cat has “become very dangerous” to human life in the area. The animal is believed to be more than 10-years-old, and could be carrying an injury, rendering it incapable of hunting wildlife to sustain itself, necessitating its switch to a diet of cattle which have been allowed to stray close to its habitat.

Though some campaigns of Save T23 have emerged online, - with the 'T23' tiger killing another person at Singara in Gudalur, it was the last straw.  Locals claim it was the fourth human kill by the same tiger in Singara and the adjacent region of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Officials told The New Indian Express that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been briefed about the situation on the ground and how the tiger has become a threat to human safety. Accordingly, a decision was been taken to eliminate the tiger!!

Under Section 11 (1) (a) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the state's Chief Wildlife Warden has powers to issue orders for hunting of wild animals, if he is satisfied that any wild animal specified in Schedule I has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or deceased as to be beyond recovery, provided that no wild animal shall be ordered to be killed unless the Chief Wild Life Warden is satisfied that such animal cannot be captured, tranquilised or translocated.

It's been a week since the capture and rescue operation was launched, but due to multiple factors like unfavourable terrain and climatic conditions, the teams were unable to tranquilise the animal despite spotting it on multiple occasions. "We took a shot at it once, but the tiger managed to escape. The behaviour of the tiger has changed and it has become very aggressive due to the ongoing operation and human presence. It's very difficult to carry out the operation when there is an uncontrollable mob surrounding the place."  Two kumki elephants, from the Theppakadu elephant camp in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR),  too had been requisitioned earlier.

While keyboard activists can trigger online and count the hits and likes – the  people of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu have been living in an imminent threat for the past few days as a tiger, which was at large, has been hunting down humans and cattle and had largely disrupted the normal lives. The big cat has been escaping the sight of wildlife brass and the hunters and could hunt at its will.  When the tiger, called 'T23', killed three humans in a short span of time, it had drawn major attention and brought to the light on how the local residents are being troubled by the wandering of the big cat.  

It is stated that some animal activists had moved Madras High Court challenging the TN decision to eliminate the tiger.  They had stated that  the deaths are result of wilful failure on the part of the Tamil Nadu forest department in managing human-animal conflict. “Elimination of the animal should always be the last resort of the chief wildlife warden after exhausting all the other options available for capturing the animal alive,” the petition added. True, but human lives too are important – often the city residents who would jump and shout in every social media for little troubles – forget that those living nearer the hills and forests are human too.

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.

The perspective of people of Gudalur / Nilgiris would perhaps be far different than that of those campaigners on web!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Oct 2021. 

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