Kodagu Villagers Demonstrate a Model Response to Managing Human-Tiger Conflict

The tigress entangled in a barbed-wire fence
CF/Director, Nagarahole and Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Big cats, when caught in snares or fences struggle hard and often injure themselves.

Most often, in situations involving a large predator, which is accidentally cornered in human dominated landscapes, local people swiftly form raging mobs and attack the animal as well as impede forest officials handling the situation. This often ends tragically with the death of the big cat, and sometimes injuries to people and forest staff. In this context, WCS India would like to highlight the exemplary restraint and positive conservation attitude of village community of Nidugumba, which is about 1.2 km away from edge of Nagarahole National Park. Nagarahole is known to hold high densities of 10-12 tigers/100 sq.km and is producing a surplus of animals each year, which try to disperse as shown by the long term tiger population dynamic studies conducted by WCS.

On the morning of 4-12-2012, the villagers of Nidugumba in Kodagu District, to their utter surprise, found a tigress, whose left paw was snagged in a barbed wire fence of a coffee estate. Acting with great responsibility the coffee planter Mr. Sullimada Muthanna and the community as a whole prevented any mobbing and harassing of the struggling tiger. They also contacted the Forest staff of Nagarahole promptly.

Responding with exemplary swiftness under the command of Field Director Basavaraj Hosmath and Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director Kumar Pushkar, the forest rangers, staff and veterinarians arrived swiftly and took control of the situation. In the absence of violent mob behavior and with full cooperation of villagers, they could function professionally and efficiently. The tigress was tranquilized safely, untangled from the fence and transported to Mysore Zoo for examination and medical treatment.

Big cats, when caught in snares or fences struggle hard and often injure themselves. The tigress is now undergoing a close examination to assess her injuries, age, and health status etc so that an informed decision can be made about her future.

We note that this happy outcome to a conflict situation stands in stark contrast to the recent tragic outcome in Wayanad, Kerala on 2-12-2012, when a cornered tiger was first tranquilized and then shot dead, amidst chaos created by local mobs, which appeared to compound professional inefficiencies in handling the situation overall. WCS India applauds the village community of Nidugumba, Virajpet Taluk, Kodagu and compliments the staff and officers of the Karnataka Forest Department for the model handling of the situation that could easily have turned into a tragedy for the tiger as well as humans. We hope this model of public-private cooperation in conservation will be publicized and emulated in other conflict situations.

We are now searching our research database of over 600 camera trap tiger photos in Karnataka, to see if this tigress has an earlier history of photographic capture in the region.

Read related news coverage in Times of India.

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Dr. Ullas Karanth is the Director, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore


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