The tigress released into Odisha’s Satkosia Reserve from Madhya Pradesh, which allegedly killed a woman in Anugul district a day earlier, will be sent back to her home state, high-level sources in Anugul district administration told The Indian Express on Thursday. The deceased, identified as Kailashi Garnayak of Hatibari village in Tikarpara range under Anugul district, went missing when she went to bathe in a pond on Wednesday. A local search party discovered the body, which allegedly had injuries made by the tigress.
On Thursday evening, the woman’s body was released by the agitated locals for a postmortem. Pictures of the body reveal a chunk of flesh missing from the pelvis. The death caused a law and order situation in Hatibari and surrounding villages, up to Thursday afternoon, with hundreds of locals blocking all routes to Satkosia. They also thrashed forest officials, set fire to a property owned by the forest department and five boats in the area.
The locals demanded immediate removal of the tigers and compensation of Rs 50 lakhs for the family of the deceased. “We are not leaving this place till all demands are met”, said a local woman, accompanying the hundreds of agitators at the entrance of the reserve.
Requesting anonymity, a senior employee in Anugul district administration told The Indian Express that “forest department will make arrangements to take back the tigress (to Bandhavgarh Reserve) at the earliest opportunity”. He said that the locals removed the blockade after eight hours of discussion and assurances.
Odisha’s forest officials did not respond to requests for comment on the fate of the tigress.
The tigress was brought to Satkosia days after a male tiger from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh was introduced to the area in June. The introduction of the tigers is part of a pilot project by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and the National Tiger Conservation Authority to boost the big cat population in Odisha through inter-state transfers.
“The whole project is likely to be cancelled”, the source said, referring to the proposal for four more tigers to be brought to Odisha.
Meanwhile, the deceased’s family, which includes her husband and 21-year-old son, has been handed Rs 20,000 as compensation from the local Red Cross funds. “The total compensation to be awarded by the forest department will be Rs 4 lakh”, said another source in the district administration.
An Indian Express investigation earlier this month found the tiger transfer project may have violated NTCA protocol and poses a risk to the genetically unique melanistic tigers in Simlipal Reserve, which is connected to the Satkosia Reserve. A melanistic or black tiger is a genetic variant within the species, with stripes broader and blacker than usual that sometimes completely covers the tawny hide.
Last month, hundreds of people living in the villages surrounding the 900 square kms Satkosia Reserve had protested the presence of the tigers, citing threat to humans and cattle. Some villagers had threatened to kill the big cats if the government did not heed their demands for removal.