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Thursday, February 13, 2014

She's a Man-Eater

No one has lived long enough to describe the tiger in detail, but some things about her are known. She traverses great stretches of land in a day and is comfortable wandering deep into human territory. After killing her first three or four people, she began to eat her victims — starting rump-first, one expert said, as she would a deer. 
Though it is impossible to say with certainty whether the same tiger is at fault, last weekend brought the 10th death in six weeks widely attributed to the “man-eater,” as Indian newspapers have called her. 
Conflicts with humans are arising precisely in the handful of places where the endangered Bengal tiger population has rebounded thanks to careful conservation efforts, said Ullas Karanth, a wildlife biologist who runs the India program of the Wildlife Conservation Society. 
“These conflicts are the price of conservation success,” he said.
I'm sure that will make the victims' families feel better! (sarcasm).
But where conservation efforts have helped shore up tiger populations, the hulking, half-ton cats encroach on settlements that are unaccustomed to them. In the wake of each attack, the tigers are met with a noisy furor, instead of the subdued, systematic dragnet used by earlier generations long used to living near tigers to guide them back into the forest.

“What works, in my opinion, are like surgical operations, you need a small team of trained people on elephants to quietly allow the tiger to stay in the area,” Mr. Karanth said in a telephone interview. “Instead, mobs come, then there is a military campaign, they keep pushing the animal and make it harder and harder to catch.”
The villagers have begged for firearms to defend themselves.
Trackers have gradually pieced together a portrait: The paw print, roughly five inches wide, suggests a female — a breeding one, since her canines are intact, said Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. One paw does not lay flat on the ground, suggesting the tiger is injured, Ms. Wright said. The nature of the tiger’s attacks on humans seemed to change noticeably after the first three or four attacks, Ms. Wright said, when “she realized how easy it is to kill people and that they’re actually quite tasty.”

Tigers who have become “man-eaters” must be killed, she said, but they are extraordinarily difficult to capture. “They just become like ghosts,” Ms. Wright said. “She can appear anywhere at any time in that district and take out another victim, and no one will ever see her. People might be standing next to her and she will just be a shocking blur.”

So it was for Mr. Charan, a father of four, inside the Corbett Park on Sunday. Yogesh Kumar, 37, was ferrying him from one dam to another “in a normal, jovial mood,” and when he stopped the car to wait for some colleagues, Mr. Charan jumped out to urinate. Mr. Kumar was waiting in the car when he heard Mr. Charan screaming, “Save me, save me,” and “I am killed, I am killed.”

... Across the state border in Uttar Pradesh, gunmen have been summoned and given license to kill. Sanjay Singh, a registered sharpshooter, was summoned by the forestry service after the seventh fatal attack, and has spent three weeks in the area. He said he believed she has moved to an area so densely forested that it is impossible to ride on elephants, as tiger trackers prefer, and he and a dozen trackers are patrolling on foot, combing the forest from morning until sunset.
Probably the greatest tiger hunter of all was Jim Corbett. His books make interesting reading, if you enjoy big game hunting. Interestingly, he did not normally use large groups of men for hunting. Instead, he would go into the bush with no one but his dog as a companion. He would try and lure a tiger in with a cow or other animal, but sometimes tracked them.

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