Operation to hunt down the cattle-lifting beast is on

A hundred men, some armed and others veterinarians specialised in use of tranquilisers on animals and Kerala Forest Department staff, are out on a hunt in areas around forests of Wayanad for a tiger, which has spread panic by lifting cattle from human settlements.

The orders for the operation have been issued on Tuesday by Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala, V. Gopinathan. He and other forest department officials are camping at Wayanad to lead the operations.

The movement of the animal have been plotted on maps. Three cage traps have been placed at strategic locations, and dart guns have been given to two squads for tranquilising the animal, says O.P. Kaler, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Palakkad.

Though confirming the identity of the cattle-lifter is a hurdle the team has to tackle, forest officials assume from evidences the attack on cattle was mostly by a single tiger.

The analysis of pug marks reveal the animal is an adult tiger, Arun Zachariah, an expert veterinarian in the team. For tranquilising the beast, a mixture of Xylazine and Ketamin will be used. Open-darting of the animal could be a highly risky affair, as there was the possibility of the animal striking back, Mr. Zachariah says. The person, who is firing the tranquilising gun, will be protected by a gunman and a covering team to avert any possible attack.

As open-darting is a precision job, extreme care needs to be taken while firing the syringe from the gun. The syringe could be deflected even by a leaf that comes in between the gun and the target. The injection would take between 10 to 15 minutes to immobilise the animal, Dr. Zachariah says. Wildlife biologist P.S. Easa says one needs to be extremely lucky for capturing animals using chemicals. Tranquilising an animal is a difficult option. The success of the caging depends on the bait used and the behaviour of the animal.

In this case, the biggest challenge before the authorities is to capture the tiger without injuring it, says Dr. Easa, who is also a member of the team constituted for hunting the animal.

Large team

The hunt has witnessed one of the biggest mobilisations of officials in recent times for the animal which has spread widespread uproar in the district.

Besides the forest officials from the district, members of the flying squad, two teams of Rapid Response Force and policemen have also been mobilised. Squads are patrolling the Kottankara, Naykatty and Muthanga areas where the animal surfaced earlier, says an official.

The management of the crowd is the biggest challenge the foresters face.

With the mob becoming restless and upsetting the tranquility of the area, there is the possibility of the animal panicking and becoming aggressive.

Such a situation can even lead to attacks on humans, says a senior official.

The animal has been photographed by the officials, who were involved in its caging earlier, the forester says. These photographs will come in handy in identifying the animal.

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