With three people killed in a week, an outraged local community demanding answers and an injured man-eater tiger headed for a life in captivity that it is “unlikely to adapt to”, several conservation biologists have criticised the Forest Department for its “bad management” of the situation, which they fear could “undermine conservation efforts”. Tiger biologist Ullas Karanth questioned the delay in capturing, or eliminating, the tiger, though he had alerted the department several days ago that the animal was a likely man-eater.
He said that he had communicated his assessment to the Forest Department after the first attack on Basavaraju.
The tiger had hunted and killed the first victim, by accounts of those who witnessed the attack, Dr. Karanth said. The second attack (on Friday, on Cheluva) was similarly an act of predation. On Tuesday evening, the tiger killed a third person, Basappa.
In an email to The Hindu, Dr. Karanth said that shooting a man-eater is “quicker and more efficient” than darting it for chemical capture. Moreover, fully grown wild big cats “do not adapt well to captivity and lead a life of perennial stress and fear”.
Vidya Athreya, a wildlife biologist who studies leopard conflict in Maharashtra, said that there is a lacuna on the part of both researchers and the Forest Department in understanding why big cats turn into man-eaters.
Ravi Chellam, a conservation scientist who has experience in dealing with man-eating lions at Gir National Park in Gujarat, said that three deaths in a matter of days is “unacceptable”.
Reacting to the charges, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Deepak Sharma said that the department “had to take into consideration several factors, including rules, regulations and permits.”