Lucknow, Jan. 9: The Uttar Pradesh forest department today cleared the way for a tigress to be shot, declaring it a maneater about a fortnight after the prowling feline had killed the first of its five suspected victims.
The order came after the big cat, which had earlier eluded a trap laid by forest officials to tranquillise it, nearly devoured a 35-year-old villager yesterday, triggering protests that led to a five-hour blockade of a key highway that connects Moradabad and Haridwar.
Chief wildlife warden Rupak De said the behaviour of the tigress, suspected to have strayed from Jim Corbett National Park, was “different” from that of other tigers as it appeared to be attacking only humans.
“I declared it a maneater today. Since December 26, it has killed five residents.... It has been attacking only humans. Conservation of wildlife being people-dependent, we cannot allow more losses of human lives. We are now in search of sharpshooters who can kill the tigress,” De told The Telegraph.
Moradabad, which borders Uttarakhand, is about 110km from the Corbett park.
The decision to kill the tigress came a little over a month after a tiger, suspected to have killed three forest dwellers in Karnataka, was trapped and tranquillised. The 2011 census report released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority said the population of the big cats in India was estimated to be 1,706.
De said he had received a letter yesterday from the forest conservator of the Ruhelkhand region in Moradabad, M.P. Singh, requesting him to declare the tigress a maneater. Tiger conservation expert V.P. Singh, director of the Terai Nature Conservation Society, however, criticised the decision to label a tiger a maneater just because of protests and media attention.
Punya Prakash Singh, a veteran conservator, said the priority should be to capture an animal that has strayed. “I had captured two tigers in 2010,” he said, although he conceded that each case had its own challenges.
Bangalore-based conservationist K. Ullas Karanth said shooting a “confirmed maneater” was always an easier solution. In an email to this correspondent, he said “failure or delay in capture will lead to additional avoidable loss of human life”, but clarified that he wouldn’t comment on the Moradabad maneater as he didn’t have the details.
Sources said the tigress was first spotted on December 26, the day it killed a 32-year-old man in Moradabad’s Balijoi Hasanpur region, about 340km west of Lucknow. Forest officials had then called an expert from Corbett and tried to trap the tigress with baits, but drew a blank.
The tigress’s other victims include a 42-year-old man from Sambhal district and a 12-year-old from a village in Moradabad.