Chennai: The Madras High Court observed that the wild tiger dubbed ’MDT 23’ in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), against which a ‘Hunting order’ was issued may not be a man-eater. Considering this possibility, the Court asked the Forest department to not take any immediate action to shoot and kill the tiger. Responding to the Court, the Forest department stated that there was no plan to kill the tiger and clarified that the ‘Hunting order’ was meant to capture it alive.
After an unsuccessful week-long search operation to capture the elusive tiger in Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, the Forest department issue a ‘Hunting Order’. The department had been facing immense pressure from those living in the vicinity of the Tiger reserve, as this predator is said to have killed livestock and also two persons. Animal rights activists had filed a Public Interest Litigation before the Madras High Court, expressing doubts over whether due procedure was followed by the Forest Department before issuing the hunting order.
The petitioners had mentioned that there was no scientific basis to establish the said tiger was a man-eater. They pointed out that the authorities could restrict the movement of public in the Mudumalai tiger reserve, while the Forest department could carry on with their search and capture activity.
The matter came up for hearing before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Audikesavulu, who directed the Forest department to not go for the kill immediately. The Chief Justice cited the endangered condition of tigers and how few of them were left in India. The Forest department clarified that they had no plans to kill the tiger and only wanted to capture it alive and that there were indications that the tiger was injured.
The Court directed the Forest department to capture the tiger alive, offer it treatment and ensure that the capturing process doesn’t cause trouble for other wild animals in the Tiger Reserve. Demanding a detailed report on the measures taken to capture the Tiger, the Court agreed to hear this matter two weeks later.
Zee Media Had earlier reported that said ‘Hunting Order’, empowered officials of the MTR to hunt the tiger ‘MDT 23’ under Section 11(1) (a) of the Wildlife Protection Act, in strict adherence to the guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority(NTCA). The top Forest department official emphasized that the entire operation, which is being conducted with assistance from Kerala Forest teams, Special Task Force would be photographed and videographed and documented, as per the order.
Dr. Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden had told Zee Media that, “this is not a man-eater tiger, the unfortunate instances of people getting killed were because they ignored the warnings and ventured into the forests where the tiger was roaming. What has been issued is not a shooting order, our first priority is to trap and capture the tiger, shooting (if at all) will be the last resort” Dr. Niraj told Zee Media. Queried on the course of action after capture, he said that the tiger would have to undergo a medical examination by expert vets, following which decision on moving it to a zoo and or similar options can be considered.
It is pertinent to note that adult male tigers hunting livestock and other captive prey are very rare, given that they have adequate wild prey in the vast expanse of the ecologically rich Nilgiri Biosphere reserve, where MTR is situated. Officials are also looking forward to finding out the reason behind this, once the capture is successful.