Maneka says it was not a man-eater

The killing of a tiger, which had given sleepless nights to people in several villages of Wayanad district of Kerala over the past fortnight, has triggered an uproar within and outside the State.

A special task force of the Forest Department shot dead the tiger inside a coffee plantation near Moolamkavu on Sunday after it ventured out of the forest and lifted over a dozen cattle from the neighbouring villages. Green activists in the State are up in arms against the killing and have threatened to move the Kerala High Court on the issue.People for Animals (PFA) chairperson Maneka Gandhi said “the incident creates a sound base to wind up the Wildlife Department.”

Talking to The Hindu on the phone from the PFA headquarters in New Delhi on Monday, she said the tiger was not a man-eater and there was no reason to kill it. A so-called special task force was deployed to “capture” the tiger and “not to kill it.” It could have been easily captured and relocated.

According to the Forest Department, it all happened because an uncontrollable crowd followed the task force inside the forests. This made it clear that the authorities had encouraged people to come inside the forests and witness the operation. “The operation should have been one to save the tiger and not to eliminate it,” she said.

The incident conveyed a message that Kerala had got used to killing its wildlife treasures without giving any forethought. “The State has a Wildlife Department which either takes bad decisions or no decisions,” she said.

Probe ordered

When contacted, a top forest officer, who did not wish to be quoted, said the department had ordered a high-level probe into the incident. The probe would focus on whether shooting the tiger at that point of time could be justified.

The officer said the task force adhered to all rules and tried its best to tranquilise, capture and relocate the tiger. But the crowd was simply unmanageable.

E. Kunhikrishnan, wildlife enthusiast and professor at University College, Thiruvananthapuram, told The Hindu that the Forest Department had done its best to save the tiger. But the tragedy occurred because of the mob.

However, there was some lack of professionalism in administering the tranquiliser shots. Tigers had been easily tranquilised and relocated in other parts of the country. It also appeared puzzling how the whole incident got videographed as though it was a documentary, Professor Kunhikrishnan said.

Veterinary surgeon and technical expert of the Kollam unit of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals B. Aravind, who had tranquilised and brought under control several captive elephants that ran amok, said there appeared to have been some technical failure in the tranquiliser shots. He blamed the mob for the situation.

It would take at least 10 minutes for the tiger to swoon. The mob made the tiger wary and defensive when it experienced the pain of the tranquiliser shot, Dr. Aravind said.

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