Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, April 13, 2018: A young adult tigress involved in a conflict situation was rescued from an aggressive mob of over two thousand people earlier today, in Sahatepurva village, Nighasan, in the North Kheri Forest Division of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. The tigress had attacked and killed Kamta Prasad, a 50-year-old resident of Sahatepurva, when he had gone into the crop fields adjoining the village to relieve himself in the early hours of the morning.
The rescue operation was undertaken by 30 to 40 frontline forest staff, 50 to 60 personnel of the Nighasan police force, and Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Rapid Response Team (RRT).
Prem Chandra Pandey, Head of WTI’s Terai Tiger Project, arrived swiftly at the scene with the RRT, having received an emergency call from the forest department. “We arrived within half an hour from our base camp in Dudhwa National Park”, he said. The tigress was sitting in the crop fields surrounded by a massive crowd. It took a considerable effort by the local police force, led by the Circle Officer of Nighasan, to push the angry crowd back. We had no option but to capture the tigress to save its life. Miraculously, we were able to capture it without sedation, using a large number of nets. We immediately shifted it out of the area to the Majhgai Range for a physical examination by our team’s veterinarian.”
“The tigress had killed and partially consumed the victim following what was likely an accidental encounter”, he added. “We suspect she has been in this area, which is devoid of good forested habitat, for a few months.”
RRT veterinarian Dr Reetika Maheshwari, who examined the captured tigress, found possible signs of a head injury – which may have been inflicted when, as soon as the animal was captured, the surrounding mob broke loose and began pummelling it with sticks. “The tigress will have to be moved to Lucknow zoo so that the precise nature and extent of the injury can be determined”, Dr Maheshwari said. “The tigress is otherwise fit and bears no external injuries, nor is it debilitated in any way.”
“This was a very dangerous operation for all personnel involved — not because it involved the capture of a tiger, but because the assembled crowd was extremely aggressive towards the animal as well as the people there to save it”, said Dr Anil Kr. Patel, Divisional Forest Officer, North Kheri Forest Division, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, who led the operation. “If we had not captured the tiger today, it would have surely been killed.”
WTI operates two RRTs and a long-term project, the Terai Tiger Project (with support from the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service), to mitigate conflict between humans and big cats in the Dudhwa-Pilibhit landscape. Since 2009, the project team has rescued eight tigers from 36 human-tiger conflict situations, with four tigers successfully released back into the wild. “We hope this tigress will also be deemed fit for release back into the wild, where she can survive on natural prey”, said RRT biologist Francis Ishmael.