DEHRADUN: After two elderly men, a farmer and a retired schoolteacher, both in their 70s, were mauled to death in almost back-to-back tiger attacks within 72 hours on the fringes of the Kalagarh Tiger Reserve (KTR), a worried local administration on Monday decided to impose night curfew from 7pm to 6am, and close schools in the area for two days.
With the tiger having been often spotted lurking near villages in Rikhnikhal and Nainidanda blocks of Pauri district, just north of the tiger reserve, people have been warned against venturing out after dark. Speaking about the terror caused by the tiger, Laxmi Devi, a village pradhan told TOI, “Even the local MLA, Dilip Rawat, spotted the tiger while visiting the area. Staying indoors cannot be a long-term solution. How will our children go to school? All of us are in extreme fear.”
In the first attack on April 13, a 73-year-old farmer, Birendra Singh, along with his wife was harvesting his wheat crop at Dalla village in Rikhnikhal block of Pauri district and had taken a break when a tiger pounced upon him. Despite his wife’s desperate cries for help, the animal dragged away the farmer. Later, villagers found the man's mutilated body some distance away.
In the second incident, which happened barely 35km away from Dalla, the half-eaten body of a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher, Ranveer Singh, was found near his house in Simli village in Nainidanda block on April 15.
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The Kalagarh Tiger Reserve falls within the Jim Corbett National Park, which has among the highest population density of tigers in the country.
Villagers in the area are pressing for the animal to be declared a man-eater and immediately put down. Responding to the demands, DFO of Pauri Garhwal, Swapnil Anirudha, said, “We have got the go-ahead to trap and tranquilise the animal. Our teams have installed cages and over a dozen camera traps have been set up. Patrolling teams are actively combing the place. Also, families of both the victims have been provided a preliminary compensation of about Rs 1.2 lakh each.”
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There is also speculation that the killings may be the work of more than one tiger, with villagers claiming to have spotted multiple sub-adult tigers in the area.
Forest officials said that DNA samples of both the victims were sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms in Bengaluru to check if the killings were carried out by the same tiger.
A senior forest official, who has been monitoring the landscape of the area for several years, added that “the incidents point at the fact that these big cats are being driven out of Corbett by more dominant tigers and they must be in search of new territory as they are sub-adults. Hence, they have strayed into these villages."
Incidentally, angry villagers in Rikhnikhal had burnt alive a suspected man-eater leopard in 2011, triggering concerns among forest officials of a repeat of that act this time around.
The Open Magazine of India by Artmotion Network (https://magazine.armotion.com/)