The five-year-old male had spread panic at Krishnagiri in Kerala's Wayanad district

A five-year-old male tiger that spread panic at Krishnagiri, near Meenangadi in Kerala's Wayanad district, was trapped by Forest and Wildlife Department officials in a coffee plantation on Monday. It was described by officials as a rare event in the region.

A team laid a trap on Saturday evening following reports of the predator having killed a domestic animal in a hamlet inside coffee plantations on the fringes of the Chethalayath forest range under the forest division a few days ago.

The forest personnel, led by P. Dhaneshkumar, Divisional Forest Officer, South Wayanad Forest Division, put the remains of a wild boar, which had been killed by the animal two days ago, in the cage as bait. The animal walked into the trap around 4 a.m. and was at once shifted with the cage to the Kurichyad forest range under the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary (WWLS), nearly 35 km away, using a tractor. During the journey, officials sprayed water on the animal to protect it from the hot weather.

It was released at Dottakulasi in the Vandikkadavu section at 11.30 a.m. under the supervision of top forest officials. One official told The Hindu after the operation that the animal might have come from the Kurichyad range. Sunilkumar, Warden, Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary, said the area where the animal was released had an abundant prey population.

A veterinarian examined the animal and declared it to be healthy, apart from an injury on its forehead.

High tiger density

Wayanad, which has a wildlife sanctuary, is one segment of a forest complex in the Western Ghats landscape that boasts a high tiger density. Nagarahole and Mudumalai are other parts of this unit. The National Tiger Conservation Authority estimated the tiger abundance in the contiguous zone covered by the three protected territories at 382 in 2010, up from 267 in 2006. At four tigers per hundred sq. km, this entire zone spanning three States has a high tiger density.

In the context of human-animal conflicts, tiger biologists K. Ullas Karanth and Rajesh Gopal say in a review article titled “An ecology-based policy framework for human-tiger coexistence in India,” that given the pattern of human population densities and clumped distribution of tigers, the area affected is very small; conflict zones cover less than one per cent of the country's geographical area and an even smaller fraction of the population. Understanding the causative factors is therefore important.

They also point out that livestock depredation by tigers (which prey on them due to a declining natural prey base) and the desire among the affected villagers to retaliate is exploited by poachers, who distribute traps and poison and make offers to buy body parts.

In the case of Wayanad, the episode has ended in capture and re-release into the wild. The process of translocating captured tigers is not without its share of problems, the authors say in the article. They point out that the older cats may be unable to survive, some may suffer injury in the capturing process and become unfit for survival, while others may introduce violent competition with resident tigers in the relocated territory.

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