More than 48 hours after a 20-year-old tribal man was mauled by a tiger in Telangana’s Kumurambheem Asifabad district, bordering Maharashtra, there has been no sign of the big cat in the forest area. As the samples of pug marks collected by a team of forest department officials from the Girelli forest area of Rebanna Range have not matched those available in the records of the Asifabad division, officials have shared all the available information with bordering districts.
Siddam Vignesh of Digada village was killed by the tiger when he, along with two other boys, went fishing in the Peddavagu stream in the forest area on Wednesday. After catching some fish, Vignesh had ventured further into the forest to collect leaves to make a temporary basket. At around 11.30 am, his body was found with a big chunk of flesh from his back missing. This was the first incident in over two decades of a tiger killing a human in Telangana.
Asifabad District Forest Officer (DFO) Shantaram told IndianExpress.com that 15 villages in a 10-kilometre radius of the tiger’s movement have been cautioned and asked not to venture into the forest. The villagers have been asked to move in groups of five and avoid going out at night. At least twenty people from the department, who are specialised in tracking the wild animal, are stationed in these villages on either side of the stream, with precautionary weapons. They will keep moving in groups to allay the fears of villagers, the officer said. Meanwhile, the villagers have also formed teams among themselves to protect their people and livestock.
The animal’s pugmarks were found within 200 to 300 metres of the incident, and were from the same day, he added. Soon after starting an investigation into the death, the forest department had installed 23 cameras on the tiger’s identified pathway. Even after 24-hours, they had not got a single shot to suggest its movement. Two cage traps with baits have also been placed.
On Friday, following no positive signs from the ongoing search, the officials charted out an operation that may last a month. The chief wildlife warden, based on the report from Conservator of Forests (Adilabad), had constituted a committee to deal with the tiger as per standard operating procedure issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Members of NGOs, veterinary officers, village sarpanch, and forest officials are part of the committee to assess the situation and take measures to ensure the safety of people as well as the tiger.
Chief Wildlife Warden R Shobha said in the press note that a detailed study of the pugmark shows the tiger is new to the area — the pugmark does not match those of tigers moving regularly in the area. She added that the tiger may have recently come to the area from Maharashtra. Shobha also said 35 tiger trackers deployed by the forest department in seven groups will continue to patrol the forest and villages adjoining the forests.
The Conservator of Forests, Adilabad, CP Vinod Kumar has formed seven teams, each with five members, to conduct round-the-clock patrolling in the surrounding villages. “Fresh pugmarks of the tiger have been detected and indicate it has moved towards Penchikalpet Range of Kagaznagar division, which is bordering Maharashtra. The continuous tracking of the tiger indicates that it could be moving back towards Maharashtra,” the press note said.
However, an official said it was too early to suggest the tiger had left the forest. “We have to keep a watch for at least a month. We are awaiting photographs from camera traps and more pugmarks to track its movement. Also, we are hoping for a positive response from other districts, as well as from Maharashtra, to identify the tiger,” he said. “The operation will continue for at least a month.”
Officials are of the view that the tiger is likely to stay in the area for a month since the forest area is not disturbed. “All tigers in our series are very friendly and calm because they are not stressed in these forests. Also, with a single human kill, it cannot be named a man-eater,” the official added.
The family of the victim was compensated Rs 5 lakh for their loss.
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