Bengaluru: A man-eating tiger in Karnataka's Bandipur reserve forest, which earlier this week claimed the lives of two persons, was finally captured on Sunday near Maguvanahalli after week-long efforts to catch it. One of the victims of the big feline was an 80-year old.
The big cat, supposed to be in the age range of four to six, is said to have moved from Kabini near Nagarhole towards Bandipur over nine months ago and had made a 1-km radius around the boundary of the forest, closer to human habitation, its dwelling place.
"Luckily we managed to capture it because the villagers were getting worried as they could neither take their cattle out for grazing nor carry out any cultivation. As per forest department records, the tiger was responsible for the death of 11 cattle in nearby villages," said Joseph Hoover, an environmentalist involved in the operations to trap the tiger.
Forest officials were pressed into action after the death of Shivappa, the second victim, and veterinarians with tranquilising guns were roped in. Forest officials set up camera traps in order to locate the big cat. Even dolls smeared with human blood were procured in order to be used as bait. The search team also roped in Soliga tribals, adept at hunting on foot, from the Biligiri Ranganathaswamy temple wildlife sanctuary, about 170km southwest of Bengaluru.
"Soligas are good at searching big cats and at following the trail left by leopards and tigers," said Sanjay Mohan, a wildlife official.
The images of the tiger caught by the camera traps in the Bandipur Reserve Forest gave an indication of its whereabouts.
"One of the camera traps in Mel Kamanahalli captured the tiger earlier in the day (Saturday)," said Mohan.
The Bandipur tiger reserve, a popular tourist destination, is spread across 872 sq km reserve forest in the Chamarajanagar district that borders Tamil Nadu. The forest is about 220 km southwest of Bengaluru.
"Last evening, the tiger ate an elephant calf. This gave us a lead that it was in close proximity and it was only a matter of time till we would zero in, hence we didn't need to use the big dolls as bait," said Hoover.
While Shivappa was the second victim of the big cat, it claimed its first victim, identified as Shivamadaiah, in the same area in mid-September when he was returning to his village with two bullocks from another village.
The tiger will now be taken to a rehabilitation centre in Mysuru, where it will be treated and kept in captivity for the rest of its life. Over 30%-40% of the big cats in Karnataka live outside the tiger reserve, which increases the risk of man-animal conflicts.
"This immediate issue may have been resolved but the problem is far from over. The question is whether the government will back the forest department in getting the right kind of equipment, thermal imagery guns, infrared cameras, binoculars, tranquilising, among others, in order to ensure there is no re-occurrence. Only then can we ensure that human lives as well as tiger lives are not lost," said Hoover.
(With inputs from IANS)