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Forest force trains guns at maneater

The Telegraph, Patna, 5th December, 2013

 A maneater suspected to have killed three forest dwellers today forced Karnataka's wildlife autorities to give orders to shoot after a frustrating  hunt that left officials tearing their hair and nearly led to more casualties.

Angry dwellers attacked a local camp of the Special Tiger Protection Force yesterday, saying the forest department  had done nothing to track down the big cat.

 The tiger has been on the prowl over a vast area around 250km from Bangalore towards Coorg, which borders Kerala, though there is nothing to suggest that one tiger killed the three men in the forest that  straddles the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Nagarhole in the Mysore administrative  region.

Another case was reported on Saturday from Nagarhole,  some 50km away, where forest watcher Suresh was found dead. It is not clear if it was the same tiger the authorities  are trying to hunt down.

Cheif minister P.C. Siddaramaiah today promised immediate action . "I've instructed forest officials  to take whatever it takes to ensure the safety of the people," he said.

Tiger conservationist Ullas Karanth backed the decision. " In this case," he said, "the maneater must be eliminated as it has become a threat to people in the area."

Forest officials today setout to hunt down the elusive feline. "We will go to any extent to prevent more such attacks," Ajai Mishra, Principal Chief Conservator of  forests (Wildlife) said before heading into the jungle. " We need to eliminate the maneater as it is already a big threat to human beings who earn their livelihood from the forest."

Yesterday, a big crowd of forest dwellers had attacked the local camp of the tiger protection force in Nagarhole. No one was injured, but sources said the camp was vandalised and partially torched. At least three motorcycles and a jeep were also set on fire.

A creation of the National Tiger Conservation  Authority, the force was posted in Nagarhole last year as part of conservation  efforts in the state.

Karnataka home to more than 300 Bengal tigers, has come a long way since it was dubbed the poaching capital in 2010, when 19 cases of tiger poaching were reported.

The maneater- assuming  it is the same tiger has been on the prowl for more than a week. On Monday, it killed local resident Basappa whiel he was grazing his cattle.

Officials confirmed that the was killed by the same tiger that had on November 30 ripped apart Cheluva, a tribal man, around 2 km from the spot. On November 28. another forest dweller, Basavaraj, was found mauled to death a short distance from where Cheluva had been dragged away.

The Bandipur Nagarhole stretch supports up to 180 tigers. With some 300 village dotting the fringe areas, conservationists called for solution  to reduce man-animal conflict. There could be instances where a wrong animal is killed. But that a risk one runs while taking these hard, Catch-22 decisions," said Sanjay Gubbi, of international tiger conservation  group Panthera.

"However," he added, "even a single death is a serious issue."