Suspicions about the presence of a man-eating tiger around the Dahegaon and Penchikalpet mandals of the Kumram Bheem Asifabad district are getting strengthened, based on the corroborative evidence. Two incidents of tiger attack in quick succession add to the doubts.
On Sunday, a tribal girl P.Nirmala aged 15 was fatally attacked by the tiger, when she was picking cotton in a field abutting forest area. Over a fortnight ago, another youth Sidam Vignesh too became victim of a tiger attack, and evidence suggests that the animal had eaten from the body.
While a single instance of human meat consumption may not be construed as evidence of a tiger turning man-eater, the animal’s behaviour in the latest instance is strongly suggestive of such tendency.
“Normal tigers shy away from human beings. But this one had stalked the girl before pouncing, and shown aggression when her body was being removed,” said an official under the condition of anonymity.
The animal, which had retreated hearing the relatives and others scream, apparently returned and tried to stalk the group menacingly when her body was being removed, the villagers reported to the forest officials. It disappeared again after villagers shouted and threw stones at it.
More worrisome is another piece of information shared by another villager whose bullock cart was followed by the tiger for some distance on the road.
“The villager reported that the bullocks panicked when they noticed the animal on their trail, following which the tiger vanished into the cotton crop which was standing six feet on the roadside. He had not noticed that there were people working in the field,” another official informed.
Villagers also observed tiger movements on the road side after the incident, but it was said to be another native cat which had not been known to harm any human beings.
For the villagers in Penchikalpet and Dahegaon mandals, tiger sightings are regular occurrences, hence spotting one seldom creates alarm.
While Forest officials are steadfast on their claim that the tiger which had attacked Sidam Vignesh was different, and that it had moved to Maharashtra following the attack, no pug marks could be recovered from the area around the attack spot on Sunday.
“It is a kneejerk reaction to announce that the animal is not the same, without even obtaining the pug marks. The same animal might have returned from Maharashtra, or the attacker may be a native tiger. It is too early to say,” a wildlife expert opined.
Two teams have been sent into the forest to trace the animal and two trap cages have been set up to capture it, informed officials. Already, camera traps have been deployed to capture images of the animal.
Forest officials also have started alerting the surrounding villages about the presence of a tiger, and issuing the protocol to be followed while moving around.