Three deaths due to tiger attacks in Chandrapur this month have stirred massive public resentment, mobilising the Maharashtra Forest Department to capture the problem animal. Owing to public pressure, officials may consider eliminating the rogue wildcat — suspected of being a young tigress — if attempts to capture it prove futile.
Cabinet Minister of Finance, Planning, and Forest Departments Sudhir Mungantiwar has issued orders for the feline to be captured, and has warned of action against officials in case of lapses.
So far, three women have been mauled to death, and two villagers injured in the buffer zone of the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve (TATR) and Bramhapuri forest division in Sindewahi Taluka.
Forest officials said that a seven-member committee has sent its recommendation to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) seeking permission to kill the animal in case it could not be captured.
Officials suspect that the feline responsible for two of these deaths in TATR buffer — on January 13 and 25 — is new to the territory. “Her camera trap images did not match with the repository in the TATR and the Chandrapur territorial area. It’s likely that the animal has come from another landscape,” a senior forest department official told DNA.
“The tigress will not be killed if it can be tranquilised,” he stressed. Forest officials will be requesting the Chandrapur police to deploy sharpshooters if the consent come through.
“There is fear among the people. The tigress appears in broad daylight, which is unusual. “The first option is to tranquilise and then undertake physical restraint using a cage. If this doesn’t work, the animal will have to be eliminated. There are many reasons for a tiger turning into a man-eater besides reasons like advanced age and injury. We can only arrive at conclusions after the animal is captured,” explained a forest official.
Divisional forest officer and spokesperson of the state forest department’s wildlife wing Girish Vashisth confirmed that orders to capture the tigress were issued. However, he refused to comment if the animal would be killed if efforts to capture failed.
The TATR and Chandrapur territorial area have a healthy tiger ecosystem. According to last year’s Phase IV camera trapping exercise, these habitats have 61 and 43 tigers respectively, the highest in Maharashtra. Officials say “overpopulation” has increased instances of conflict.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)’s statistics show that tiger mortalities in Maharashtra between 2010 and 2016 stand at 65 due to accidents, poaching, natural causes and electrocution.