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Giving tigers a bad name: An imaginary conversation with an alpha tiger on the distressing subject of man-eating big cats

Of shrinking populations, ill-thought-out ventures and its (sometimes) gory aftermath

Ranjit-lalRanjit Lal's column talks about a grave subject of man-eating tigers (Source: Getty Images)

Yet again, Down in Jungleland fearlessly ventured into the forests of Corbett National Park to talk to one of the alpha tigers about the distressing subject of man-eating tigers.

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Excerpts:

DiJ: Good evening. I hope you’ve eaten well today…

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Tiger: Maybe I have and maybe I haven’t…

Dij: What was on the menu today?

Tiger: (grinning and growling): Venison: Actually a stupid chital who was trying to be macho and showing off in front of the girls. He let his guard down and, well, easy-peasy.

DiJ: That’s good to know. Er…what are your favourite meats?

Tiger: Chital, sambhar, wild-boar, nilgai, and porcupine — but you must know how to kill and eat them – they’re rather like those poisonous fish the Japanese eat…

Dij: Ever sampled buffalo or cow…

Tiger: Not yet, but may have to try them if there’s nothing else available as has happened in so many places in India.

Dij: (nervously): What about humans? Ever tasted them?

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Tiger (wrinkling up his face and then grinning nastily): Ugh no…but would you like me to take a bite out of your big bottom to sample? Then you can write a first-hand account on how it feels…

Dij: (backing away) No need. Tell me, what’s your take on man-eating tigers and leopards?

Tiger: Well, usually they’re either lame or half-blind or very old and you people are the easiest to take down. But yes, there may be some real sickos out there too that think human flesh is a delicacy.

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Dij: There was a huge uproar a few years ago regarding the gunning down of the tigress Anvi in Maharashtra. More recently, there were reports of a man-eating tiger wreaking havoc in Uttarakhand. He’s recently been moved to the Nainital zoo…

Tiger: Yes, while it was encouraging to see there were still some people standing up for Avni – you know the NGOs and environmentalists – you guys really declared war on her in the same way that Putin’s doing in Ukraine. Two hundred commandoes, drones, dogs and yet, according to reports, she nearly took down your best sharpshooter…

Dij: It’s been said that all of India’s protected areas are chock-a-block with tigers forcing them to spillover into human habitats where they come into contact with us, with disastrous results.

Tiger: Sonny Jim, may I remind you that our population has decreased by over 90 per cent and there are now around 3,000 of us ranged against 1.3 billion of you. You people push your poorest and most destitute into areas adjoining our sanctuaries and instead of increasing wildlife habitats want to build expressways through them…

Dij: You know, once a tiger is confirmed as a man-eater, and is impossible to capture by tranquillising, orders are given to shoot it. You can imagine the lives of the poor folk who live in these areas – they are terrorised and can’t eke out their daily living.

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Tiger: (grinning) Yeah, like your Covid-19 lockdowns did no? Of course, the poor and destitute become victims, you can hardly expect an Ambani or an Adani to be taking a morning walk or wandering out for jungle-paani near our sanctuaries alone and unguarded.

Dij: People are getting more impatient and violent when it comes to man-eating tigers: they try and lynch the animal without even knowing if it is the real killer…

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Tiger: Yes, and your social media and the press just add fuel to the flames.

Dij: But these poor people are too petrified to step out of the huts for months…

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Tiger: Sonny boy, you and your ilk should be terrified every time you step out of your houses wherever you live…

Dij: What do you mean?

Tiger: Simple: Your precious motor vehicles kill over 150,000 people every year. Is a hue and cry raised? Are there protests? Also, I love the way you people report such cases: ‘Truck falls into khud’, or ‘bus mows down sleeping people’ as if the fault were that of the vehicle and not of the drunken, maniacal or simply exhausted driver or the morons in charge of servicing it. I bet you know at least half-a-dozen people who have been hit by motor vehicles in the recent past.

Dij: Umm…true, I was personally knocked over by an idiot on a motorbike while on a pedestrian crossing some time back. But now we have safety measures… seat belts and airbags have been made mandatory.

Tiger: Which manufacturers are opposing tooth and nail… Besides they only protect the occupants, not the pedestrians.

Dij: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Tiger: Yes. All the hoo-hah raised when a tiger kills a human is not so much out of sympathy or empathy for the victim and his or her family as it is about your ego. You just can’t stomach it that a powerful wild animal can take you down with a casual swipe of its paw: That our growls (growls) can turn your stomach to liquid. Motor vehicles are your own creation, so you exempt them. Talk about double standards.

Dij: But at least motor vehicles don’t eat the people they run over…

Tiger: We waste nothing. But motor vehicles do mangle their victims pretty horrifically.

Dij: Any final thoughts?

Tiger (clearing his throat and nodding)

Lorry, lorry headlights bright

On the highways of the night

What amoral hand or eye

Could carve thy manic trajectory?

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First published on: 06-07-2022 at 10:54 IST
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