Col C P Muthanna:
Kodagu district in Karnataka has witnessed nine incidents of tiger attacks on people, resulting in eight deaths in the last few years. Apart from this, over 60-70 cattle deaths too have occurred. Recently, a tiger was captured after it had killed two people a few days ago.
As of now, people will be relieved that this tiger has been captured. However, the problem is not solved by just capturing the tigers. Attacks on cattle and people will continue unless the right steps are taken by the State Government and the people’s representatives. This is also applicable for elephants that have killed and wounded several people in Kodagu during the past 20 years.
First, the issue of both tiger and elephant attacks in Kodagu and adjoining districts is due to the continued destruction of forest habitat for the so-called development projects such as dams, power lines, railway lines, expansion of highways etc.
CONTINUING FOREST DESTRUCTION
It is high time politicians stopped destroying forests in the name of development. Otherwise, it is people living in the districts of Kodagu, Mysuru, Hassan and Chikkamagaluru who will bear the brunt and suffer from attacks by wild animals.
I wish to give the example of our MP – Shri Pratap Simha. He is always proudly proclaiming that he has managed hundreds of crore rupees for Railway and Highway projects etc but this will go on to destroy precious, remaining forest cover.
We wish to convey to him to kindly change his priorities and obtain these funds for better management of forests and for forest protection.
The young boy and his grandfather who were killed by a tiger in Kodagu recently were from Hangod in Mysuru that is also part of MP’s constituency. The grandfather, Shri Raju was killed by the tiger when he had gone to answer nature’s call in the early morning.
People in crouching position are very vulnerable to tiger attacks from behind. The problem is that many labour quarters and tribal settlements do not have proper latrine facilities and this has caused tiger attacks in the past also.
Although the Kodagu district administration has claimed that Kodagu is free from open defecation [ODF], however, this is not true. Is Pratap Simha aware of this?
And what about the local MLAs? Is it not better to take steps to solve these problems rather than criticizing and demoralizing the forest staff whenever there is a tiger attack?
PROLIFERATING LANTANA COVER
Another aspect is the proliferation of Lantana weed. The thick lantana cover in the forests prevent the tigers from clearly sighting their prey such as spotted deer, Gaur, Sambhar etc. Hence, they tend to move towards small patches of land where grass is available for the prey species. Due to the proximity, there is conflict between the tigers and the tiger which is wounded is likely to come out of the forests and attack cattle and people.
Lantana also causes elephants to come out of the forest in search of fodder. The proliferation of lantana etc is due to forest fires. The Karnataka Government should therefore, allot more funds for prevention of forest fires, sufficient staff, eradication of lantana, etc.It is only through such an integrated approach and by involvement of the forest dwelling tribals who have good knowledge of forest habitat that the problem of tiger attacks and elephant attacks can be resolved in Kodagu and the neighboring districts.
(The author is former President, Coorg Wildlife Society and is a conservationist who has been working in the field of Environment for decades.)