I would give tiger benefit of doubt: Jim Corbett

The forest department is all set to hunt or capture a tiger, T1 or Avni with Cane Corso dogs in a tow at Pandharkawda in Nagpur. The problem tigress as she is called, is known to have killed at least ten people and has devoured a major portion of one of the victims, hence earning itself the tag of a maneater.

While hunters are doing their job, Twitterati and animal lovers are up in arms against the hunt, asking them to capture the elusive tiger instead of hunting it. Unfortunately, Avni has two baby cubs in a tow, and are worried that they wouldn’t survive if the mother were to be gone.

The Corbett way

What would the country’s most famous hunter, who was also a naturalist and the person who knows the most about tigers would have done? Since Corbett is long gone, we can only refer to what he said about maneaters. In spite of being a hunter, Corbett disliked the phrase ‘bloodthirsty as a hunter’. He believed that the one who coined it is ignorant of the animal that has been defamed.

According to Corbett, human meat is not a tiger’s natural food. But why do they hunt and eat humans? “A man-eating tiger is a tiger that has been compelled, through stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien to it. The stress of circumstances is, in nine cases out of ten, wounds, and in the tenth case old age,” he says in the book, Man-Eaters of Kumaon. There have been cases that Corbett has recorded where tigers ‘accidentally’ turned maneaters by chance encounters with humans, giving them the idea that humans can satisfy their hunger.

Driven by necessity

Corbett also believed that not all tigers who kill can be termed man-eaters. Tigers with young cubs who are disturbed, a wounded tiger or a tiger on a fresh kill, can hurt or kill human beings. However, these cannot be classified as dangerous maneaters who hunt for human flesh.

“Personally I would give a tiger the benefit of the doubt once, and once again, before classing it as a man-eater, and whenever possible I would subject the alleged victim to a post-mortem before letting the kill go down on the records as the kill of a tiger or a leopard,” he says in the same book.

That brings us to the question. Should Avni’s life be spared?

What is the right way?

We no longer live in the times of princely states where Kings and princes organized hunts for rogue animals that killed villagers. The tables have turned, and fewer animals are alive and thriving. However, one thing is common. Villagers around Pandharkawda are in danger as some of them have died. Added to that, the forest department has taken the drastic step of hunting it down only after two months of failed attempts to capture it. Now, who is right? Please tell us what you think, in the comments section, below.

 

Tigers of India 

India is known to be home to three-fourths of the world’s tiger population. It also proudly showcases the Royal Bengal tiger as it national animal. However, in India which is overpopulated with its ever-increasing and masses struggling for space are encroaching into forests, taking away their home and game. As a result, our tiger population has heavily dwindled over the decades. While conservation efforts are yielding results, we have fewer tigers who can survive a country that is rapidly urbanizing itself.

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5 Comments

  1. A human life is always considered important than an animal’s life.
    We are much evolved than animals and can think better , act in better ways.
    We can always decide for them but they can’t decide for us.
    May be Avni has become a threat to humans , but we should try to find out some better option , rather than killing her .
    Like evacuatingg the village for some time. So she won’t get any targets . May be providing her with some other food options .
    Try to find out the reason of her killing the humans.
    There is always some golden path to every problem.

  2. It’s a foregone conclusion that this government will not lift a finger to call a halt to this unjust hunt of a Tigress & her cubs, because trees, forests, wildlife, mean nothing to them. They believe that their brand of “development” is the only way forward for this country. That’s why corporates can build cement factories in tiger habitats. Roads can cut through Animal Sanctuaries, and Elephants can be cut down on railway tracks & roads adjacent to forests.
    India does not DESERVE the wealth of diversity of Wildlife that we have!! Because India has LOST HER SOUL to greed & corruption!!!! I am sickened and disgusted at the way our wildlife is being decimated!!

  3. Jim Corbett was a legend in his lifetime & beyond. It used to break his heart to have to kill the Animals labelled as MANEATER in his time. And he always gave them the benefit of the doubt and the respect & dignity when he had to kill an animal.
    Compare those noble sentiments with today’s greed and avarice in the determined hunt to kill a young mother Tigress & her cubs by a self glorified shikar and an indifferent , adamant Government!!

  4. TLDR; I’ve read a lot of books about man eaters in India and while I’m an animal lover myself, it’s a well known fact that once a maneater, always a man eater. Also, man eaters will pass this behaviour on to their cubs, which will compound the problem. Most of the people the tiger killed are very, very poor people of tribal descent. It’s easy for us (in the cities) to say the tiger shouldn’t be harmed – but for these tribals who are forced to deal with ghastly and mutilated bodies of their close family members, it’s a big ordeal. Their livelihood is also affected. These tribals have lived alongside tigers in the forest for millenia. The forest has always been home for them too (so it’s not a question of man-animal conflict). Tigers that hunt wild prey almost always shy away from human beings. Man eaters won’t change their behaviour either because once they taste human blood, and they learn that human prey is easier to hunt down than wild prey, they will never back off. Trapping a tiger is a good direction, but anyone who knows tigers (especially man eaters) would say it is highly unlikely to happen – tigers are extremely intelligent, suspicious and careful. The fact that it isn’t returning to the horse bait (which it killed) already shows that she knows something is amiss. It will only be a matter of time until the next human becomes her victim. And then the next. It’s quite unfortunate but allowing her to live will create a family tree of man eaters, which will compound the problem further, and that’s unnatural behaviour that has to be nipped. An interesting question to ask would be: how did this tigress become a man eater in the first place? Tigers become man eaters if they are injured in some manner and are unfit to hunt wild prey (which are quite elusive in any case). Tigers will also turn into man eaters if they have been injured by a human (unlikely) in some way or a hunter (likely an unskilled poacher) has injured the tiger without completing the kill. Tigers never forget and will bear this hate for all humans after an episode like that. Decorated hunters of yore were always roped in to kill man eaters – Jim Corbett, Kenneth Anderson, et al. in the good old days for this very same reason. There have been cases where women go out at night to pee (because they live in huts and women often move further away into the shrubs to relieve themselves in privacy) and end up killed. Tigers roam 100s of km as part of their beat and evacuating all the villages in the fringes would mean 1000’s of people displaced, not just from homes, but their livelihoods, and cultural birthright too. Encourage you to see this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_attack#Reasons_for_attacking . It’s unfortunate, but ‘Shaitani’ has to go. Blind activism is senseless. Death of human lives in this article has been relegated to ONE LINE. Pretty high-handed us city dwelling folk can be. And ignorant too. To be honest, although I support killing her, I am sure there are no competent hunters around to do it. It’s important for the tiger to be identified and killed quickly because if there are more human kills, people will take matters into their own hands and set poisoned bait in the forest. They have been very, very patient until now not to take this extreme step. The trouble with that would be the chance that another innocent tiger would be killed, or any other carnivore. I wish the author would read about maneaters from Corbett or Kenneth Anderson’s books to learn more about this sensitive topic before writing a one-sided article. Post a picture of a half eaten, mutilated human body. That’s reality. Two months seems like a long period indeed but in reality it takes anywhere between 3-6 months for an experienced, gentlemanly hunter (and a really good one at that) to corner a maneater. Tigers roam the forests for 100s of kms almost every other day, so it’s going to be a mammoth task. Scores of villages are likely to be affected and no one can predict where the next victim will fall, because of the distance tigers travel. How can you evacuate 40 villages? And these folk earn only 15,000 a year, what will they do without their livelihood? It will be a painful loss for all the tribal villagers until Shaitani is shot. Man eaters are the most cunning lot. They stalk human victims for days on end before making a kill. To the victor, the spoils!

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