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Eye of the tiger: Killer nomad on the prowl

Monday - September 16, 2019 11:06 pm , Category : SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Jaipur, Sep 16 (IANS) This is a story of T-104, an eight-month-old tiger who became a homeless wanderer and has killed three men since February this year in the jungles of Ranthambore.

He has been wandering outside his home territory after being pushed out by his father and other male tigers.
Facing strong rejection in his home turf and after being attacked by 'lathis' by villagers outside the range, this tiger first killed one Munni Devi in February in Padli village falling under Kundera Range. Then he attacked and killed Roop Singh in Kaila Devi forest area last month. Recently, he killed his third human victim named Pintu Mali who was attacked while he was asleep inside his hut on September 11.
Now, as the forest department is in a quandary about where to relocate T-104 after tranquillizing it, renowned environmentalist Harshwardhan has all sympathy for the tiger who he says should not be branded a maneater.
"Calling this tiger a man-eater will be an injustice," he says, sharing the sad tale of this tiger who was forcibly separated from his mother by his insecure father.
According to Harshwardhan, "It has been a sad tale of our jungles that the young male tigers are never allowed to form a territory of their own. Eventually, like other tigers, this tiger too was pushed out of his territory. He travelled for miles and reached Kaila Devi forest area. However, as he failed to get a female tiger and lush green habitat like in Ranthambore, he came back to Ranthambore.
Again he was pushed out by other tigers. When he left the jungle territory, he came in contact with villagers face to face. Timid and afraid, he was silent at first, but then 'lathis' were used on him by villagers which eventually led to him attacking humans.
Also, he has a disastrous past in Ranthambore where he was injured by a dominant male tiger T-64 in a territorial fight in May after his return from Kaila Devi forest area.
So he preferred to be out of his home terrain as he was not allowed to co-exist with female tigers in their own territory.
Eventually, wandering from here to there in search of his own territory, T-104 went rogue, so to speak.
"It's a sad story of these tigers who face calamitous challenges in newly adopted 'homes' which are infested with rural folk and their livestock. Even though wild prey base is scanty, or non-existent in many such scrub-forest regions, they survive on domestic cattle, and have been reportedly breeding in such alien habitats," Harshwardhan said, adding that additional population of tigers inside reserves thereby is getting rehabilitated outside the reserves.
He also refers to the recent picture of Gir lions walking in a street in Jamnagar.
"This is yet another case of predators moving out of the main park into the towns! Too many problems are loud and clear, and the officials concerned have just no plan to confine them within their designated premises, it's a pyrrhic victory of sorts," he says.
Tiger numbers have gone up in the last few years, but their territories have shrunk. Hence they have started coming out of their areas.
What's the solution to this challenge?
Harshwardhan says, "Population control of tigers is a must. I have been writing letters to all officials concerned but to no avail. Surprisingly, the designated parks which can accommodate 30-35 tigers are now accommodating 60-65 tigers. With good food, quality demographic conditions and ample water, tiger numbers are proliferating but not in the main area of the park. The problem is male tigers who are potential threats to their fathers. In fact, going by nature, their courtship with their mothers is not allowed so they push them out."
P.S. Somashekar, a retired forest officer from Rajasthan, speaking to IANS, said, "We might see the big cat numbers growing, but in reality, we are losing the battle."
Environmentalists and senior forest officials have been requesting the ministries concerned to either sterilise the female tigers by operating them or by sending them away. However the authorities are yet to respond.
So more number of tigers shall continue to venture out of their jungle homes at the cost of villagers' lives who do not have any say in Project Tiger which simply aims at increasing the tiger numbers but not their wellbeing.
The villagers get nothing in return when tiger numbers increase and the tourist revenue goes to the wildlife department, but they instead become a helpless witness to the killing of their family members leading to the usual outcry, only for more such cases to be repeated.
Are the officials listening?

--IANS arc/kr