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Monday, December 3

Do we need a tiger reserve in Wayanad ? Loud thoughts as the straying tiger gunned down

So the tiger in Wayanad  is dead
But beware; more than 60 of them are still lurching inside the forest.
Now, some recap.

The curious case of the cruel tiger
Usually wounds or similar issues which make a tiger incapable of finding food on its own force it to look for easier preys like cattle . In the case of Wayanad tiger, the postmortem report is still to come out to understand if it had any such wounds which forced it to hunt down the cattle. (Usually poaching is a major reason which causes such wounds. The instances are not very rare in Wayanad and adjoining forest areas in nearby states.). 
Image Courtesy: WWF
However, it was 12 years of age, which makes it less capable of hunting on the forest folk on its own.A possible case of a old cat looking for cattle for food.

 The standard procedure of trapping man-eating of cattle hunting tigers of leopards, right from the time of Corbett, is to leave the carcass of the cattle intact, to trap or shoot the killer when it comes back to it.

However, in Wayanad case, the tiger was rarely allowed to get its kill which was furiously taken away by the people to stage up blockades the National Highway. It was terrifically starved, so it killed more. Despite its frustration, it never attacked people, even if many (including school children) were trapped in its front, while it was starved for days. (Not out of respect or sympathy, but out of fear. Wild cats fear human a lot. They attack only when left with no other option.)

The classical cases of crisis management by Kerala forest authorities
Lack of crisis management from the state and forest authorities made the case worst.
The unruly mob was the single cause of death of the tiger which was getting sedated due to the tranquilizer shots. According to experts, the tiger, after shot with a tranquilizer dart of enough ketamine dosage, should be left free for at least 30 minutes, to sedate down. It will show violent behavior during the period but will sedate gradually. But instead of leaving the animal free, the, mob surrounded it in Wayanad incident, exposing themselves to danger and forcing the officials to shoot the animal. 
Majority of the leopards or similar animals straying into the human inhabited areas in Kerala have their fate sealed, since the mob has its own way of stoning them to death even if the forest officials manage to get the animals trapped. Desperately, the department has issued stricter circulars on the need to stick to scientific methods while rescuing wild animals straying into human inhabited areas.  But the crisis management plan of Kerala forest department (if they have any) still lacks the basic procedure of mob control. 
Here too, the authorities should not have let the people go loose just like that in such a situation, not only for the safety of the people and officials, but also for the poor animal.

What happens if the tiger reserve comes up in Wayanad ?

One Tiger = several cattle
One Tiger Reserve = More tigers 
More Tigers = More cattle and other issues

This is the popular mathematics used by the politicians in Kerala time and again to instill fear in the public. A tiger reserve will surely bring up more tigers, so more menace. That’s it.

But, Wayanad is not going to have the first tiger reserve in the state, if it is proposed to be. Kerala already have two tiger reserves, Parambikulam and Periyar. How many reports have popped about the horrid menace done by tigers to the people living around these forests in recent years?

Mass eviction   
Scaremongers sing that the reserve will bring eviction of hundreds of families, a clamp down on commercial, construction activities, a carpet ban on agriculture and what not. In short, human settlements will be razed down for the useless tigers. 

There are hundreds of families still living inside the buffer zone of other tiger reserves in the state. Let alone that, four villages with hundreds of inhabitants are there in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.

According to a forest official, who would like not to be named, the inhabitants who happen to be inside the buffer area of a tiger reserve may decide to leave the place with ample compensation from NTCA or can decide to stay with all chances of getting compensated for the crop loss or similar damages caused in the human animal conflict. Similarly, there are no such carpet ban on agriculture or other activities, except certain minimal regulations on construction of dams, linear structures etc.

Now, what if a tiger reserve does not come up in Wayanad?
The latest data on the population of the big cat in the state which is yet to be released shows that Wayanad has at least 70 mature tigers and 10 cubs in its forests. That is pretty good numbers than many of the so called ‘tiger reserves’ in the country and possibly, better than other protected forest areas in the world. 

Presently, the forest department in Kerala is in pretty bad shape when it comes to allocation of funds for conservation purpose, let alone the efforts to bring down human animal conflict. Sources at the forest department in the state itself, on condition of anonymity, admits that the lack of funds really affect the activities of the department. 

According to an answer tabled by MoEF at the Rajyasabha on November 27th, Kerala has got more than 14 crore rupees (1476.518 Lakhs) since 2010 for conservation of big cats in the state. But not a single paisa from that money which was sanctioned by National Tiger Conservation Authority has reached Wayanad since it is not a tiger reserve yet, despite the higher population of tigers. 

Funds released to Kerala under Project Tiger Since 2010 ( amount in Lakhs)
Source: MoEF

Instead, if the area is turned into a tiger reserve, the department will have enough central funds, to implement scientifically approved measures to bring down the human animal conflict like fencing and other measures. 

The case of the people around the reserve will not be as pathetic as today where they get a nominal amount of compensation or just statements from politicians on possible compensation, since the compensation procedure is standardized and better with NTCA.

If the sanctuary is not turned into a tiger reserve, the forest department will find it difficult to implement enough mitigation measures to avoid any conflict between the high populations of tigers in the area.

Above all, tigers are costly

India spends crores of rupees from the tax payer money every year to conserve the striped big cats of the country since it is among the rare places in the world with favorable habitats and a viable population of this endangered animal. According to WWF, we have lost 97 percent of world’s tiger population in 100 years.

Obviously, a tiger costs very much, in nature. If you don’t care about that, you should understand that, a tiger costs crores of tax payers money. Whomever responsible for shooting and killing a tiger when there is enough chances of rescuing it, is thus answerable to the tax payer.


  1. who will convey this message to the politician of kerala especially a forest minister who has no interest in it and other politician who are only interested in votes bank politics and a forest dept officials who joined it because they could not find job in other departments.....nobody bothered to convince people about benefit of getting the status of tiger reserve this is my feeling when i had interaction with people from that district.

  2. Vinod,
    thanks for the comment.
    What you said is true. At present, it may seem little difficult to get the message through since there are many lobbies(real estate mafia and politicians) behind the brouhaha around tiger reserve in Wayanad.

    But, as the tiger was gunned down, there is at least a slight change in the emotions and feelings of the general public.Many villagers from Wayanad itself has expressed the view that the animal could have been captured live than shot dead. But that has not changed the general notion against the reserve. I think time will bring some change to it, bcz every issue that attracts much public attention in Kerala is very volatile also.

    With the politicians it will be just like another episode of Mullapperiyar where nothing happened to the actual situation. For forest minister, he always makes superficial comments without understanding issues and finds himself in awkward situations(remember his statements on 'Aadimadhyantham' directed by Sherry). Moreover, we don't know how long he will be in that office. so with politicians and minster it is just a matter of time.

    But it is the main stream Malayalam media which was always dancing to the tune of the propaganda against tiger reserve to change its stand on the issue and stop misinforming the public. Then there is some chance that the game will change.


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