Three men were killed in separate attacks by tigers between Wednesday and Saturday in Karnataka– a State known for a successful tiger conservation programme and that records the highest number of tigers in the country. According to the 2010 census, 300 tigers inhabit the State.
The tiger population is especially high in the Bandipur-Nagarahole range where the men were killed. Around 10 to 15 tigers are found per 100 sqkm in this range, biologist and director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Ullas Karanth, told The Hindu .
“The tiger population has reached a saturation point in these forests. A high population density means higher incidents of conflict with humans. Several of these animals could have been pushed out due to territoriality,” Dr. Karanth said.
As many as 10 people have been attacked by tigers in this zone alone since 2006, according to the WCS. And of the 92 tigers that died in the same time frame, at least half the deaths are due to anthropogenic reasons and have been attributed to snaring, poisoning or poaching.
A high tiger density often produces a floating population of animals or “transients” that are pushed out of their territory. They often inhabit forest fringes, said Dr. Karanth. “Transients could be old or injured animals or even young animals looking for new territories.”
Meanwhile, both the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and scientists seemed to concur that the tiger that killed two people in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve is a “man eater”. The tiger had dragged the body of its second victim about 100 metres towards the forest, before it was chased away by crowds, G.S. Prabhu, PCCF (Wildlife), told The Hindu .
“It is clear that both these tigers had begun to see people as prey,” Dr. Karanth said.
However, K.C. Kantharaju, Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, believes that the Bandipur attacks are not necessarily predatory because the tiger did not feed on its victims.