The man-tiger conflict in Vidarbha has taken a sharp upswing with four villagers losing their lives, one sustaining grievous injuries and one minor injuries in a spate of six attacks over Tuesday and Wednesday.
Three of the deaths occurred in Chandrapur district on Wednesday, a record for a single day, while one person died in an attack in Gadchiroli district.
On Wednesday, forest guard R T Chaudhary was attacked by a tiger in Saoli range in Chandrapur district, but he escaped with minor injuries.
Sita Chouke, 63, was killed in a tiger attack in Sindewahi range of Brahmapuri forest division at 8 am when she had gone to collect tendu leaves, said Chandrapur Chief Conservator of Forest N R Praveen.
Another woman, Rajni Chikram, 35, was killed in a tiger attack in the defence area belonging to the Ordnance Factory, Chandrapur when she had gone to collect tendu leaves.
In the third incident on Wednesday, Rama Marbate, 70, was killed by a tiger in Saoli range of Chandrapur divisional forest when he had gone to forest to collect fodder for cattle.
Range Forest Officer Vasant Kamdi said, “A tigress with cubs had attacked a woman while she was collecting tendu leaves along with a group of fellow villagers on Tuesday, injuring her grievously. But after the group raised an alarm, the tigress retreated. The woman, Shakuntala Chaudhari, 50, has been hospitalised and is out if danger.”
“On Wednesday morning, when we had gone to check the place and trap cameras, the same tigress suddenly dashed towards us from a bush barely 15 metres away. We had sticks, which we used to scare her away. But in the melee, forest guard R T Chaudhary fell down and sustained minor injuries,” Kamdi said.
He added, “Tigresses with cubs generally get aggressive, sensing danger to her offsprings.”
Asked if the tigers had eaten the bodies, Praveen said, “Partly eaten”.
On Tuesday, a woman collecting some forest flowers used in food preparation was killed by a tiger in Wadsa division of Gadchiroli district. The victim, Vandana Jengthe, 40, was in a group of women when the attack occurred.
With these incidents, the number of tiger attack victims in Chandrapur and Gadchiroli has risen to 19 so far this year.
Tiger attacks are generally more frequent in the first half of the year when villagers go out to collect mahua flowers, tendu leaves and firewood. While the season of mahua flower collection is over, collection of tendu leaves will continue for at least another two weeks, while firewood collection activities are vigorous before monsoon onset.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Nitin Kakodkar said, “A committee led by Chandrapur CCF Pravin formed to look into the man-animal conflict issue under instructions of State Wildlife Board (SWLB) has given its recommendations. I have forwarded my comments on the same to the government. The committee has recommended division of Chandrapur district into four zones from the point of view of containing the conflict. They are protected areas (PAs), corridors, fragmented forests and peri-urban areas. The idea is to increase PAs’ capacity to sustain more tigers, to facilitate smoother movement of tigers through corridors, to take measures for better man-tiger coexistence in the forest by raising awareness and increasing vigilance to safeguard them when they venture into forest. The idea is also to minimise their interface with forest except when it’s about livelihood issues. In the peri-urban areas, which are on the periphery of urban settlements, the recommendation is to remove tigers from there. There are tigers on the premises of installations like Chandrapur Superthermal Power Station and Western Coalfields Limited.”