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Shoot orders for Mysore maneater

Bangalore, Dec. 4: A maneater suspected to have killed three forest dwellers today forced Karnataka’s wildlife authorities to give orders to shoot after a frustrating hunt that left officials tearing their hair and nearly led to more casualties.

Angry dwellers attacked a local camp of the Special Tiger Protection Force yesterday, saying the forest department had done nothing to track down the big cat.

The tiger has been on the prowl over a vast area around 250km from Bangalore towards Coorg, which borders Kerala, though there is nothing to suggest that one tiger killed the three men in the forest that straddles the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Nagarhole in the Mysore administrative region.

Another case was reported on Saturday from Nagarhole, some 50km away, where forest watcher Suresh was found dead. It is not clear if it was the same tiger the authorities are trying to hunt down.

Chief minister P.C. Siddaramaiah today promised immediate action. “I’ve instructed forest officials to take whatever it takes to ensure the safety of the people,” he said.

Tiger conservationist Ullas Karanth backed the decision. “In this case,” he said, “the maneater must be eliminated as it has become a threat to people in the area.”

Forest officials today set out to hunt down the elusive feline. “We will go to any extent to prevent more such attacks,” Ajai Mishra, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), said before heading into the jungle. “We need to eliminate the maneater as it is already a big threat to human beings who earn their livelihood from the forest.”

Yesterday, a big crowd of forest dwellers had attacked the local camp of the tiger protection force in Nagarhole. No one was injured, but sources said the camp was vandalised and partially torched. At least three motorcycles and a jeep were also set on fire.

A creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the force was posted in Nagarhole last year as part of conservation efforts in the state.

Karnataka, home to more than 300 Bengal tigers, has come a long way since it was dubbed the “poaching capital” in 2010, when 19 cases of tiger poaching were reported.

The maneater — assuming it is the same tiger — has been on the prowl for more than a week. On Monday, it killed local resident Basappa while he was grazing his cattle.

Officials confirmed that he was killed by the same tiger that had on November 30 ripped apart Cheluva, a tribal man, around 2km from the spot. On November 28, another forest dweller, Basavaraj, was found mauled to death a short distance from where Cheluva had been dragged away.

The Bandipur-Nagarhole stretch supports up to 180 tigers. With some 300 villages dotting the fringe areas, conservationists called for solutions to reduce man-animal conflict. “There could be instances where a wrong animal is killed. But that’s a risk one runs while taking these hard, Catch-22 decisions,” said Sanjay Gubbi, of international tiger conservation group Panthera.

“However,” he added, “even a single death is a serious issue.”