With man-animal conflict in the forest areas of Uttar Pradesh assuming ominous proportions, three persons have been killed by a marauding tigress within five days this month from January 6 to 11 in the Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary. The latest human killings are said to have been executed by more than one feline, as indicated by the pugmarks taken from the site. According to forest authorities, there is a likelihood of tiger cubs accompanying their mother.

The seriousness of the problem can be gauged from the fact that from April 2010 to January 2011 a staggering 39 incidents of man-animal conflict have been reported from Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur and Katarniaghat forest areas of UP with 17 persons being killed and 22 injured in attacks by the big cat and a leopard. As the density of both the tiger and leopard population and the pressure of human population in the reserve and buffer forest areas has increased, the forest authorities apparently found the problem to be insurmountable. The density of tiger population in UP forests has been recorded in the 2007-08 tiger census at 6 to 7 tigers per 100 sq km.

The latest human casualties in the Katraniaghat wildlife sanctuary have been dubbed as “chance encounters” as the deceased strayed into the reserve forest area in search of grass and wood. Chief Wildlife Warden B. K. Patnaik said on Thursday that while Jagmal, who was killed during the night of January 7-8, and Dugar, who was mauled on January 11, were killed inside the forest area, Saligram, aged 60, was found dead in sugarcane fields about 50 metres away from the reserve forest area. “The killer has not been declared a man-eater yet as except one, two other incidents occurred in the Katarniaghat and Nishangarh range of the wildlife sanctuary,” Mr. Patnaik told reporters.

Shaken by the three incidents, three teams have been constituted for tracking the big cat. A separate team headed by the regional forest officer of Nishangarh range has been formed for providing security to the villagers and giving information to them about the activities of the tigers.” Pugmark Impression Pads are being set up at places likely to be frequented by the big cats including water holes for tracking down the beast,” Mr. Patnaik said. Three different types of pugmarks have been found in Katarniaghat, but, as the CWW said, pugmarks are sometimes elusive.

The villagers have also been advised not to venture out in the reserve forest areas as it increases the chances of killing. “Moreover, this is the mating season and tigers become aggressive,” the forest official added.

Even as the forest authorities resorted to constant monitoring in Katarniaghat and Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, a grassland development and management programme for increasing the herbivore prey of the tigers has been launched. Efforts would also be made to minimize the human and cattle population in the forest areas. In addition, alternative sources of energy and livelihood would be created in the forests' buffer zones.

Around 600 to 700 hectares in the buffer area of Dudhwa National Park are under illegal occupation. No area of Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuary is under illegal occupation.