Stray Uttar Pradesh man-eater tiger shot, wounded (Lead, Changing dateline)

February 8th, 2009 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Feb 8 (IANS) Wildlife officials in Uttar Pradesh, whom a stray tiger has been eluding for the past three months, managed to shoot the feline Saturday — but failing to kill the animal, left it injured and bleeding, an official said Sunday.
The shot was fired by Dudhwa National Park deputy director P.P. Singh, who is part of a crack team detailed to overpower the tiger that had traversed some 400 km from the forests of Pilibhit region.

As many as about 100 people have been involved in the operation ever since the tiger was found to be on the prowl. The feline travelled across Shahjahanpur, Sitapur, Sultanpur and Lucknow, eluding officials and was currently confined to a relatively smaller 1,000-acre forested pocket in Faizabad district, where it was hit by the bullet.

While darkness led them to abandon the injured tiger’s chase last evening, officials were Sunday trying to follow the blood trail into the thick undergrowth, where the animal was suspected to have taken cover.

“It would be easier for our men to overpower the animal now,” said a senior wildlife official, who did not wish to be named.

“If the injury is deep, then I do not think the tiger would be able to survive, but even if the wound is not serious, then too it would be easier to tranquilise the big cat, which is bound to now remain localised in a limited area,” the official added.

Asked why the officials used a lethal bullet instead of a tranquiliser gun, he said: “perhaps they had no choice, as the tiger had reportedly charged at them.”

Wildlife enthusiasts now fear that with a bullet wound, the two-and-a-half year old animal, that had strayed out of its habitat in the jungles of Pilibhit in November, may now actually turn into a man-eater.

“Even though the wildlife department had hastily declared the tiger as a man-eater after it made the first human kill in December, there is every chance of the animal now turning into a real man-eater now that it is injured,” said wildlife expert Kaushlendra Singh, who is also member of the Uttaranchal State Wildlife Board.

Singh, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court to restrain wildlife officials from gunning down the tiger, was sore that the department had not cared to wait for the court’s ruling in the matter.

“The fact that the wildlife department chose to go ahead with its mission of shooting the tiger instead of making serious efforts to trap or tranquilise it, shows that they have little respect even for the high court that was seized of the matter,” he said.

According to him: “What is strange is that the officials did not pay heed even to state forest minister Fateh Bahadur’s assurance that the animal would not be killed.”

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