The hunt to capture a tiger suspected of killing two people in Bandipur reserve ended in high drama with the Karanataka Forest Department authorities tranqulising the large feline. Nearly a week after the search operation began on October 8, over 100 trained forest staff with help from experts captured the tiger on Sunday. A contingent of six elephants and a specially-trained German Shepard named Rana also assisted the team.
Though 144 camera traps were laid to identify its location, capturing the wild cat proved to be an uphill task. Members of the Soliga tribe, who were assisting the search, found the tiger after following its pug trail.
A tranqulliser dart was fired at the tiger at 1.26 pm on Sunday but it disappeared into the thick vegetation. This led to several anxious moments among the forest staff as the medicinal effect of the tranquilliser would last for only about 90 minutes. However, officials heaved a sigh of relief after they found the tiger sedated as the team closed in to capture it.
The tiger, identified as a 'healthy, robust male', is now confined at the Chamundi Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Koorgalli, near Mysuru.
Conservationist and former member of the Karnataka Wildlife Board, Joseph Hoover told Indianexpress.com that better equipment like thermal imagery dart guns would have helped in capturing the tiger sooner. He also said that inducting wildlife veterinarians as permanent forest department staff in tiger reserves would help in handling such situations better in the future.
"Holding regular interactions with local residents of the areas are equally important as winning their confidence to respond to their issues would better the entire process," said Hoover, who was part of the search team.
End of the melodrama- capture of the so called man eater of Bandipur. There is nothing as a man eater. It’s a term coined by the hunters of the British era, without any scientific backing. With 40% tigers living outside TR in Karnataka conflict is going to be worse in future. pic.twitter.com/Z1AW4XWYCb
— Susanta Nanda IFS (@susantananda3) October 14, 2019
Earlier this month, a press release signed by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Project Tiger) that called for the capture of the tiger -- dead or alive -- within 24-48 hours caused controversy.
It led to protests by conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts who demanded the order be revoked and that the wild cat should be tranquilised instead to be caught alive.
Tiger numbers in the 872 square kilometre-forest in Bandipur have been on the rise over the years, although encroachments have resulted in a decrease of the forest area for the wild cats.