A tigress that spread panic at Appapara and Panavally villages in Thirunelly grama panchayat in Wayanad was trapped by the Forest and Wildlife Department at the Pulivalmukku forest of the Begur forest range under the North Wayanad forest division on Wednesday morning.
The news came as a big relief for the villagers. A team of forest personnel, led by A. Shanavas, Divisional Forest Officer, laid the trap on Tuesday evening on a directive from Collector K. Gopalakrishna Bhatt.
The villagers had staged a protest after the predator killed four domestic animals at Pulivalmukku and Panavally, two villages on the fringes of the forest, a few days ago.
The forest personnel laid the carcass of a calf that had been killed by the animal two days ago inside the cage as bait. The 15-year-old tigress walked into the cage about 4 a.m. on Wednesday.
When the officials tried to shift the animal on a goods carrier, the villagers detained them demanding that they have a glimpse of the animal. Thousands assembled there to see the tigress.
The plan was to release it deep inside the Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary (WWLS) on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, nearly 70 km away.
Later, it was released at Dottakulasi on the Karnataka-Kerala border in the Kurichyad forest range under the WWLS at 3.30 p.m. under the supervision of top forest officials.
WWLS officials said the area where the animal was released was a suitable habitat as it had abundant prey base and sighting of tigers there was rare. Moreover, the area was away from human habitations, they added.
Arun Zachariah, forest veterinary surgeon, examined the animal and declared it healthy.
Tension prevailed at Karipur and Chethalayath near Sulthan Bathery after a group of villagers detained the forest officials in the evening.
S. Sreekumar, warden WWLS, and Mr. Shanavas were detained by the mob at Karipur while they were returning after releasing the tigress.
The police resorted to force to disperse the crowd. The “secret” operation to release the animal provoked the villagers, who demanded that the officials reveal the location. The officials said the mob had been mislead as the animal was released in the core area of the WWLS.
Earlier, the villagers blockaded the forest range offices at Muthanga and Kurichyad and blocked traffic at Chethalayath on the Pulpally- Sulthan Bathery State highway and Muthanga on the Kozhikode- Kollegal National Highway 212 for hours raising the demand.
In protest, an all-party action council called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Sulthan Bathery and Noolpuzha grama panchayats on Thursday.
A 12-hour hartal called by the action council at Thirunelly grama panchayat on Wednesday demanding security to life and property of the villagers from wild animals was total and peaceful.