Why no new attacks if tigress T1 is a maneater?: High Court asks Forest Department

Updated: Oct 19, 2018, 11:28 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Wildlife veterinarian says there is no concrete and substantial evidence to claim that Pandharkawada tigress killed 13 people

Why no new attacks if tigress T1 is a maneater?: High Court asks Forest Department
Tigress T1, recently captured on a camera trap

Most wanted tigress T1 can't be a maneater - after wildlife activists, a forensic expert has now voiced this doubt, unconvinced by the Forest Department's theory that the big cat has killed 13 people in Yavatmal over two years. The expert veterinarian, Dr Prayag H S, is a senior PhD scholar at KVAFSU-Bengaluru, and was a part of the operation to capture T1.

Three days ago, Mumbai-based activist Dr Sarita Subramanium and Nagpur-based wildlife lover Dr Jerryl Banait had approached the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, appealing that controversial shooter Shafat Ali Khan be removed from the operation as he was not an expert in tranquillising.

The petitioners brought to the court's notice that the operation going on in Pandharkawda and Ralegaon in Nagpur, to track T1 and her cubs, has hundreds of people associated with the forest department involved in it, and as part of the search, they enter the forest daily; yet, there has been no attack on anyone of them. The court has asked the forest department to explain why no attacks have happened in the area where the tigress has been for over a month if she is a man-eater.

T1 captured on a camera trap
T1 captured on a camera trap

Unanswered questions
Dr Prayag H S said, "While the state forest department claims T1 is a man-eater, there is no concrete evidence to prove she killed 13 people. Forest officials and police personnel didn't carry out a proper scene-of-crime investigation; so how can they conclude that 'based on circumstantial evidence'?"

The expert told mid-day that before labeling any animal as a man-eater, authorities need to adopt a scientific approach and secure evidence, which has not been done in this case.

"Not a single guideline laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, or even the Standard Operating Procedure, to declare an animal a man-eater has been met. In all 13 cases, there is no eyewitness, barring one case where a person saw the tigress dragging a person's body. But for all we know, that person could have died earlier, and the tigress happened to find the body," he added.

He also said that if the tigress had eaten those people, human DNA would have been found in her scat, but that, too, didn't classify her as a man-eater. "The forest department did not carry out a scat analysis in the area where T1 allegedly killed humans. And even if DNA analysis had been done, the result would only prove a tiger's presence at the spot and give the big cat's gender; it wouldn't identify the animal (in this case, say it was T1), unless officials carry out individual identification by microsatellite markers.

Post-mortem reports inconclusive
Another shocking fact is that none of the post-mortem reports say the humans were killed by a tiger; they only mention the word 'carnivore'. The post-mortem should have been conducted by a panel of doctors in the presence of a wildlife veterinarian, who has a better understanding of wildlife attacks," he concluded.

Rumour has it...
Even as the operation to track down T1 and her cubs continues, news came on Wednesday evening that the tigress had charged at three members of STPF involved in the search operation. Activists have, however, slammed the news and called it deliberate rumour-mongering. "Despite being aware of the tigress's presence in the area, the STPF members were sent to search without any veterinarian or sharpshooter along, and yet, she did not attack anyone. The attack rumour is being spread so that the forest department and shooters can claim to have killed her in self-defence, if they find her," a wildlife lover told mid-day. When contacted, PCCF A K Misra was unavailable for comment. mid-day also reached out to CCF, Yavatmal (territorial), Pradip Rahurkar, who said, "I cannot comment on anything at the moment."

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