Tigers an easy kill for trigger-happy TN

By Oppili P, TOI, dated 25.03.2016
Three Big Cats, Dubbed Man-Eaters, Killed By Forest Department In 3 Years
With the recent shooting down of a tiger, dubbed as “man-eater“, in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu has gained the dubious distinction of being gained the dubious distinction of being trigger happy with wild tigers straying close to human habitation.The National Tiger Conservation Authority's estimation in 2010 recorded the presence of 163 tigers in the Western Ghats landscape. The next estimation in 2014 said it rose to 229. The tiger population was up by 66 in four years.

Sadly , as per an RTI reply , the state lost 24 tigers in the last three years due to various factors including poisoning, gunning down and natural deaths.

The shooting of tigers is a clear violation of National Tiger Conservation Authority's (NTCA) guidelines for handling man-eaters. The guideline says that under no circumstances should the tiger be eliminated if it “is not habituated for causing human death.“ In the recent case in Nilgiris, the tiger did maul one man but in the night. On no grounds could it be tagged as a man-eater habituated to causing human deaths, activists point out.

Tamil Nadu may well learn a few lessons from Karnataka on this. Conservationist Rajkumar said in that state whenever a tiger or a leopard strays out, its movements are tracked.In the recent times, except the habitual man-eaters, other tigers were captured and relocated. There is no question of gunning them down, he said.

Whenever such operations are taken up, the wildlife managers in Karnataka don't seek the help of police personnel, who are `trigger happy'.Gunning down a big cat if it kills one person creates a wrong precedent, argues Rajkumar. “ A proper study on why the carnivores are straying out will help forest managers to manage the situation better,“ he said.

Citing the example of the Gudalur tiger killing last year, naturalists say that garbage dumping near forest areas in recent months has made matters worse. Waste from butcher shops is attracting wild boar, which in turn attracts carnivores. Blaming wildlife for this is not fair, say naturalists. “It would be of great help to both humans and wildlife, if the government expedites the process of removing encroachments from ecologically sensitive Nilgiri biosphere reserve, at the same speed with which they eliminated a male tiger in Gudalur,“ says Coimbatore-based conservationist K Mohan Raj.

A senior forest officer points out that whenever a straying wild tiger leopard kills a human being, it becomes a law and order issue. Villagers fear they can't move out in the dark and call for immediate action from for est managers. When trapping efforts with the assistance of veterinarians fail, the situation can turn nasty for forest officials with locals resorting to hartals and violence. A classic example to this is the attack on the forest range office in Gudalur last year and burning down the jeep of a district forest officer.

So in order to convince the locals, the tigers are gunned down, he said.

Ooty-based Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust founder Sadiq Ali suggests that an efficient and fully equipped rescue center should be built with rapid response facility with latest rescue equipment. Such a center will cater to the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Aanamalai Tiger Reserve in Pollachi and Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Erode. It should also have a qualified veterinarian trained in wildlife rescue.

The first priority of this center should be to tranquilize and bring the straying wildlife, especially the carnivores, to the rescue center and provide treatment there. Later the animal could be relocated. The state government should allocate the required funds for this center to effectively handle man-animal conflicts, he says.

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