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Tiger eaters! Trend dangerous for the big cat, people alike



Dharmendra Khandal , Financial Chronicle, New Delhi, 11th April, 2013

It has always been a subject of concern and oddity if big cats are eaten in India, or not? Reports about the same flash at times, even though they are disbelieved. Last month, a Jaipur-based journalist called me asking my view. He had reported an incident where poachers had killed leopard cubs and eaten them this was in Gogunda area of Udaipur district in Rajasthan. However, these poachers were arrested by the police. A similar incident happened in Andhra Pradesh too. Dr GV Reddy, a senior forest official mentioned about some villagers killing a leopard and the entire village participating in the feast, while some villagers who did not like the episode, went on to inform the forest department.

Killing and eating of tigers in India was revealed to the public when a report came from West Siang district of Arunchal Pradesh in 2010. The media reported such an incident for the first time and also showed pictures of the incident too. They fixed the dead tiger in a public area of the village and distributed its meat among the villagers. They sold the skin to a trader in Rs1.5 lakh, so much for a magnificent predator. Recently, I was in Kolkata and met a retired army brigadier, who served the Indian army in the north-east region. He told a very interesting account when he raided a village in Nagaland with his army troop in 1987. During the raid, they found a tiger being cooked and the villagers confessing that they had killed the tiger because it was feeding on a cow. Both the incidents belong to the north-eastern India and it is a known fact that villagers do not leave anything alive including endangered wildlife, which is often killed just for fun or food.

However, in 2010, when the incident happened in Arunachal Pradesh, I also tried to explore the tiger eating incidences in my area (which is Ranthambhore). Its primary population of cattle herders and farmers is mainly vegetarian. Ranthambhore is the only tiger reserve in the world where almost 80 per cent population of the community residing along the reserve is based on milk protein and not on animal protein.

I met Bhajan Mogya, an ex-poacher from the traditional hunting tribe. He said that after killing a tiger, his gang would collect 8-10 kg fat of the tiger for their personal consumption. Primarily, they killed the tiger for skin and bone, as these were demanded by international market. He said they would throw the dead tiger’s meat in the nearby area for scavengers like jackals and hyenas to eat, but they collected the fat for personal consumption. Ambalal Mogya, a poacher, was injured and killed by a tiger, when he was trying to poach. Later, his brother and son killed the tiger and ate its meat as revenge.

Yes, these are disgusting incidences, but we as humans, should be aware as to what we are doing to our co-species who, too, have a reason for existence in the ecosystem. If they go, we go. Moreover, a predator’s meat is considered unhealthy for our body as it is more exposed to dangerous bacteria. Humans are turning to the predator today as we do not share the ecosystem and do not respect the delicate web of life. Poaching, habitat destruction and pollution are the gifts we are leaving for future generations which they may never be able to clean or see a green life.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)