Monitoring of big cats only way to stop attacks, say experts

The man-eater of Gondia that was shot dead by anti-Naxal commandos of Bhandara on Saturday had killed five women at an average of one every four days since December. But there had been no attack on humans since January 4, when the tigress claimed her last victim at Bhivkhidki village. Why was that? A "possible reason", according to Gondia Divisional Forest Officer Rama Rao, is "intensive patrolling in the area and monitoring of her movements".

Tiger conservationists and experts feel that's the way to tackle the problem of man-animal conflict. "It (monitoring) could have been done immediately after the animal was first spotted in the jungle that had no tiger presence for the past few years. Monitoring of big cats is the most effective way of checking man-animal conflict," says Nitin Desai, Central India Director of Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Poonam Dhanwatey, who visited the spot as a representative of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), says: "From first-hand experience, I can say constant monitoring of the big cats is the most effective way to prevent loss of human lives in such attacks. Recently, just outside the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, tigers killed a few cattle heads raising alarm among the locals. We undertook monitoring and patrolling with the help of village youths and forest department staffers and the problem has been taken care of well."

Poonam, along with her husband Harsh Dhanwatey, run an NGO, TRACT (Tiger Research and Conservation Trust), which has worked extensively in controlling the man-tiger conflict in Chandrapur after a problem tiger was shot dead at Talodhi in 2007. The pilot project stressed continuous tracking and monitoring of tigers moving in human-dominated tiger landscapes contiguous with TATR. The project funded by NTCA also involved training of local villagers as well as sensitising them about the presence of big cats in their vicinity.

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