In the middle of an open plot adjacent to the Kallayi river is kept a fairly large green cage with its trapdoor closed. Inside, on the far end, one can see the rotten carcass of a goat, intended as a bait to capture a tiger that was rumoured to be behind the recent goat-killings in the locality. The cage was kept three weeks ago.

The bait goat ended up being killed by stray dogs, putting an end to the tiger ‘hunt.’ Meanwhile, more goats have died in the past few days, leaving the local people perplexed and under a cloud of fear.

“Mine was the first goat to be killed two weeks ago. It was a huge loss for me as she was pregnant also. After that, there have been four other killings, the latest of which happened on Saturday. All of their ears were bitten off and the animal had drunk their blood. It has not eaten any other part of the body. So, we are not sure if it is a tiger this time around,” said A.K. Manoharan, a farmer here.

But there are many who believe it is a tiger and with good reason too. Having caught a tiger from the same area three years ago, they are in a ‘once bitten, twice shy’ mood.

“Whatever is happening now is a repetition of last time. Then also, someone had spotted a tiger near the river and at that time goats were killed. But the authorities never took it seriously. Then, after several months, it ended up in the cage and we all went to the Muthanga forests and sent it back to the wild,” said Sunil, who was part of an action committee formed to address the problem last time.

Local residents say the sudden disappearance of stray dogs at night is a telltale sign of the tiger’s presence.

“Usually, these streets will be full of street dogs by evening and we find it difficult to walk through here. But for the last few days, they have not been on the streets after dark. The same thing happened when a tiger was caught from here a few years ago,” says G. Ramesan, who runs a shop here.

The residents unanimously criticise the Forest Department for its inaction in the case.

“The Forest Department has not helped the matter in any manner. The cage to capture the tiger was brought in only after all of us raised a hue and cry about the issue. Department staff came only once to bring the cage. We had to pool in money to buy a goat to be used as bait. Also, Faisal, a halwa-maker in the locality, lost two of his fingers while unloading the cage due to its faulty railings. We had to collect money for his treatment also,” says K. Sathar, another resident in the area. Asked about the action taken in this regard, R. Adalarasan, Divisional Forest Officer, said he was unaware of the recent goat deaths. “We have kept a cage there. But stray dogs got into the cage and killed the goat. After that, the cage was never used. It is still not sure if the goat deaths are due to tigers,” said Mr. Adalarasan. He said a rapid response team has been formed to deal with emergencies.

This team is located in Thamarassery — around 40 km from Kallayi — from where a rapid response is a remote possibility.

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