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In the shadow of the man-eating tiger

 Navin M Raheja |  2014-12-07 22:20:50.0  |  New Delhi

In the shadow of the man-eating tiger

I do not recall any tiger in recent memory gaining so much notoriety as the man-eater of UP-Uttarakhand. In the news-channels, it has become popular as the man-eating tigress of Moradabad. My last article hinted at the possible reasons for it having turned to human killings.

But events have changed dramatically in the region. Ever since my last article, four more humans have died at the hands of the man-eater. Now there is a new twist in this ongoing, macabre tale. Three of the recent killings have taken place in and around Kalagarh forest range of Uttarakhand, and not in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. And in all of these three cases, pug-marks of a male tiger have been found near the victims’ bodies!


So does it mean that not one but two man-eating tigers are active in the region? Evidence suggests so. But for some strange reason, the killer is still being mentioned as the “tigress’’ of Moradabad, and not the “tiger’’ of Kalagarh. I suspect this may be because of the media’s tendency to keep things simple for the viewers and not subject them to unnecessary complications. Indeed, it would suit everyone’s sensibilities if the same tigress – dubbed the Villain of the Piece by all and sundry – carries out her activities without a pause. Why bring a jarring element in a news story by suggesting the emergence of a second killer tiger?

Well, it certainly is a bitter and strange pill to ingest, but I am offering it to my readers. Recent happenings mark the need to abandon simplistic logic and view the events from the stand-point of a tiger – for a tiger is not driven by any need to keep things simple for television viewers. As far as my wide knowledge of tigers go – backed by over 300 encounters with them in a span of 35 years – I can safely say that a tiger does not gives two hoots for a channel’s TRPs!

John Maynard Keynes, the great 20th century economist and a keen watcher of stock-markers, once faced a similar dilemma. Having advised his readers to take a particular position on the markets, he however took the opposite position with his own money. Later on, during a financial seminar, an angry reader complained about this to Keynes; and he came out with the classic reply: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’’

The sudden appearance of another man-eating tiger in the region has jolted people’s presumptions. It has forced them to change their view-point of the recurring tiger attacks. Not surprisingly, barring a few forest officials of UP and Uttarakhand, not many people are giving credence to this possibility. However, I strongly feel it’s time to change our perspective and see things in the light of the new events.

Presuming there are two man-eating tigers active in the region, the problem becomes many times bigger for all concerned. From what I heard last, the hunters authorized to eliminate the man-eater ASAP have started packing their guns with heavy hearts. Perhaps they are beginning to realize the sheer magnitude of the task.

Till date, nobody alive has even seen the man-eater, let alone photograph it. The sugar-cane fields spread out in the thousands of kilometers area on Bijnore-Kalagarh belt has given the killer the perfect hiding place. Every trick in the book has been tried to lure it out of the fields, towards strategically placed cages with live bait or at the spots where teams of hunters lie in wait with loaded guns, but to no avail. The tiger is in no mood to oblige and she or he is much smarter than we initially assumed it to be. It’s a frightening scenario, no doubt; the odds are heavily stacked against us humans. The killer comes and goes at its own sweet will, toppling all our well-laid plans with impunity.

In a latest move, the Uttar Pradesh forest department has started using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, of UAVs, to track down the killer tiger. A team of scientists from Allahabad has arrived in Bijnore and are flying these remote-operated UAVs on top of the sugar-cane fields. I hope the new strategy will yield some results, but till this happens, I am keeping my fingers crossed.

And then there is this spectacle of a gun-wielding area MLA on a horseback, strutting through the sugar-cane fields with dozens of equally armed party followers in toe. The MLA is visibly perturbed– why, doesn’t this foolish tiger know it is election time in UP and it’s machinations will cause unrest among the vote-bank of the region! I certainly agree with the esteemed politician and wish him all the best in his effort. The fact that the gentleman has no hunting experience and knows little or nothing about tigers is of absolutely no concern to his loyalists, all of whom are itching for a piece of the action that their MLA has started.

A G Ansari, one of the several conservationists from Uttarakhand who have been following the moves of the man-eater, feels that the task of nabbing the culprit may seem uphill, but it is achievable. I agree with Mr Ansari, and with his contention that the immediate requirement is to identify the tiger – or the two tigers – in the first place. Sitting right between the thickly vegetated Kalagarh forest range and the sugar-caned landscape of Bijnore is the Amangarh forest division. It is in these areas that the two tigers are operating; but this region also holds about a dozen tigers at any given moment.

Therefore, it’s extremely important to identify the man-killers. If this is not done, there is every possibility of one or more innocent tigers falling prey to the bullet of a trigger-happy hunter or some publicity seeking politician. It’s a gambit not worth taking, and I believe most tiger lovers will agree with me. On date of the writing of this article,  Mr Ansari informs me that several new trap cameras are being set up in the affected areas. Hopefully, one of these should give us some clue to the killer tiger or tigers.

My team members from Raheja Productions are filming the activities in the region. I wish I too could join them, but am stopped by my busy schedule as the managing director of Raheja Developers. It’s anybody’s guess when the man-eaters will be accounted for. The region has not seen anything of this sort before. So far, the tiger is setting the agenda and the humans are on the receiving end. But being an eternal optimist, I am sure sooner or later the issue will be sorted out and peace will return to this beautiful, picturesque region once again.

For more stories and films on wildlife by the author which have run on National Geographic channel, Doordarshan National channel and Doordarshan (India), please log on to www.rahejagroup.org 

Navin M Raheja

Navin M Raheja

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