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Hunt for ‘killer’ tiger in Nilgiris continues

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj on Friday issued orders to ‘hunt’ down the tiger.

The tiger named ‘T23’, which is reportedly roaming in the Masinagudi forest area of the Nilgiris district, has remained elusive even 10 days after an operation to nab it was launched. Nearly 120 personnel from the Tamil Nadu forest department and the special task forces from Kerala and Karnataka are part of the operation to capture the tiger.

Forest officials have intensified the search for the big cat by bringing in two kumkis from the Theppakadu camp of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. The plan is to seat veterinarians on top of these tamed elephants, which will help them to throw tranquilizer darts at the tiger. The nearby areas are being surveyed through drones and camera traps. Also, three sniffer dogs, including one from the native Chippiparai breed, have been deployed to track down the tiger.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj on Friday issued orders to ‘hunt’ down the tiger. He said the presence of thick tea bushes, inclement weather, challenging terrain and disturbances by locals have made the operation difficult.

In an order issued under Section 11(A) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Shekhar said the Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Muthamalai Tiger Reserve, Udhagamandalam, has been authorized to take immediate action to hunt down the tiger identified as T23 by engaging forest department personnel in strict adherence to the rules of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Following the issuance of the order, several animal activists ran a social media campaign urging officials not to ‘kill’ the tiger. Even politicians like Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan took to Twitter and said human lives were important but killing the tiger was not a solution. He said that forest department officials should use modern techniques and capture the tiger and rehabilitate it.

The forest department then clarified that its task was to capture the injured carnivore and not to kill it. Speaking to media persons, Forest Minister K Ramachandran said the officials were making efforts to capture the right tiger and not cause any threat to any other tiger. He said all officials concerned have been handed over the photographs of T23 taken through camera traps.

Talking about the demand of a section of locals to shoot the tiger, the minister said: “The stripe pattern of each tiger is unique. We cannot randomly shoot a tiger. The NTCA has its rules and regulations to protect tigers.”

Meanwhile, two petitions challenging the forest department’s order to ‘hunt’ down the tiger will be heard by the Madras High Court on Tuesday. One petition was filed by a Uttar Pradesh-based animal activist, Sangeeta Dogra, and another by the People for Cattle in India, Chennai.

The operation to hunt the tiger was launched following the death of a 56-year-old man identified as Chandran of Devan Estate. Chandran was grazing his cattle, when he was attacked by the tiger. He was rescued by the forest department and was provided first-aid. But he succumbed to his injuries on his way to the government hospital in Ooty. The incident triggered outrage among the villagers and they demanded that the animal be killed. The very next day, the tiger attacked a cow in the nearby boundary area.

(With PTI Inputs)

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