Odisha Forest Department officials on Tuesday said the newly released big cats in Satkosia Tiger Reserve were under threat from villagers, who might attack the animals fearing their safety and of their cattle. The officials said some villages surrounding the reserve were living in fear of a tigress named Sundari, who has frequently strayed into the farms of some villagers, eyeing their cattle.
“It is possible fear will drive them to injure or kill the animals,” said a forest official. The officials further said they expected the tigers to initially explore their surroundings before settling on a hunting territory.
The tiger reserve comprises of two contiguous sanctuaries in central Odisha — Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary and Baisipalli Sanctuary — covering an area of around 900 square kilometers, bordering scores of villages. In June, a 195 kg tiger was shifted from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh to Satkosia, a first case of inter-state relocation. Days later, a tigress was also relocated from Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.
Residents of villages in Anugul district, such as Katrang and Satyajaipur, said one of the locals suffered injuries after having a narrow escape from the tigress. “No one is willing to take the cattle for grazing anymore, unless in the company of 8-10 men,” said Braj Behera of Satyajaipur. Villagers of Katrang have preserved paw prints of the tigress in the mud. “We are afraid of sending the children to school,” said a woman, who claimed she saw the tigress behind her house on Sunday.
While some villagers have threatened to attack the animals, others said they would approach the state human rights commission, though the body is without a member since August 16.
The guidelines by the United Nations affiliated International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) on reintroduction of species into a habitat specifies that “risk assessment should cover the potential direct and indirect negative impacts on human interests”. “The Centre’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) also has protocol to reassure local populations,” said a forest official. “Locals should be given incentives if their cattle are killed,” he said, adding that such an assessment was probably not done prior to shifting the tigers.
Stating there was no cause for concern even if the tigers venture towards human settlements, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Sandeep Tripathy told the Indian Express, “The tigers have neither attacked cattle nor humans and their movement is closely monitored via satellite and VHF callers (high frequency communications device). There is no history of tigers attacking people in the area.”