18 June 2010 - Hanumantha Nayaka, 50, of Bairambadi village on Calicut Road, paid with his life for “disturbing and provoking” a tigress in a ravine in Karnataka’s Bandipur Tiger Reserve he entered presumably to collect firewood on 13th March 2010.
Deputy Conservator of Forests Dr K Hanumanthappa, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, feels that Hanumantha Nayaka must have veered off the fire track in the core area, four kilometres inside the demarcation line, into a deep ravine to collect bamboo poles. “It is an isolated incident caused perhaps by extreme provocation,” he says.
The tiger's pug marks are clearly visible on the left shoulder of the deceased man. Pic: Karnataka forest department.
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Was he alone? If yes, how could the villagers from the search party locate the corpse at the exact location within three hours after the incident? Forest officials say those who go to forests to collect firewood may not return the whole day or even night before the family gets worried and sets out to search.
3. If he had gone to collect firewood and the bundle of bamboo poles he had chopped were found, then where was the machete/axe he used to fell the bamboo/firewood?
The answers indeed point to the probability that Nayaka was accompanied by fellow villagers; perhaps, not just for firewood collection. Intelligence officials hinted at this entry being an attempt to smuggle tiger cubs for selling to circus groups. “Poaching cliques get more and more creative with experience,” they say.
2. Was it a man-eater?
3. “Carnivores that deliberately seek, kill, and eat humans are man-eaters; but not those that kill by chance encounter or accident and eat humans as this tigress did,” explains Jhala.
4. Hanumanthappa makes the following observations to substantiate the Forest Department’s claim that the carnivore was not a man-eater.
5. 1. She did not display explicit intent to hunt the man. She attacked with intense anger under duress. She has carried the carcass all over the ravine indicating unusually aggressive behaviour. The fact that she shifted her cubs instantly to another location shows how insecure she felt.
6. 2. There is no confirmation if the flesh was eaten by the tigress or if she abandoned the cadaver. Scavengers like jackals, vultures, wild boars, and hyenas might well have eaten up the entrails including the lung. According to Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson, India’s famed hunters of man-eating tigers of yore, tigers detest eating human flesh as it gets cumbersome to tear up the muscles. They are not wont to hunt, kill, and eat human beings. If this tigeress was a man-eater, it would have moved the kill to a secure location and consumed the flesh within the next three days. That the upset villagers crowded around the spot and did not let the forest staff keep a watch on the man-eater but instead, took the cadaver for last rites and autopsy, leaves scope for speculation that it might become a man-eater in future (see box 1).
7. 3. Since the tigress has not ventured out of the reserve in search of cattle or human beings since this incident, it indicates that it is disinclined to consume human flesh. Prey is plentiful in Bandipur and the natural diet of tigers includes herbivores like sambhar, deer, gaur, or perhaps, all animals without much muscle to tear.
8. 4. The forest officials say they have not observed any injured tiger in Bandipur, a primary cause that turns tigers into man-eaters.
9. 5. There have been no further killings of human beings or cattle outside the tiger reserve either. This indicates fear of humans; prima facie, it is not a man-eater.
11. What can turn a carnivore into man-eater
12. 1. Tigers, lions,...