Big cat on the prowl in South Kodagu: 5-member Soliga tribal team to track elusive tiger
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Big cat on the prowl in South Kodagu: 5-member Soliga tribal team to track elusive tiger

March 17, 2021

Ponnampet: Forest Department officials, who were hoping to tranquillise and capture or kill the male tiger that had killed three persons and badly injured another in South Kodagu on the fringes of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, have not been able to do so till now as the tiger has remained elusive and quick in its move from one place to another.

Cattle deaths have continued even as the operation to capture the tiger has crossed 25 days. Though the big cat has been spotted in one of the camera traps set up by the Forest Department, the tiger has been giving the officials the slip. It is not even coming anywhere near the cage set up by the Department. The big cat was not even spotted near a couple of livestock tied amidst coffee plants as bait.

Even the local villagers are turning impatient by the day and despite Ponnampet taluk bandh and a series of protests and roadblocks at Ponnampet, Bellur, Srimangala, Mathigodu and Madikeri, the Forest personnel have not been able to capture or kill the tiger.

Various search teams are combing an area up to 10 kilometre radius to capture the feline, said to be hiding in the dense forest and coffee estates. Now the Dept. has roped in Soliga tribals from Biligiri Ranganatha Tiger (BRT) Reserve in Chamarajanagar to track the elusive big cat. 

A five-member Soliga tribal team, considered expert tiger trackers, has already arrived in South Kodagu and has joined the foot patrolling teams. This is for the first time Soliga tribals have been pressed into service in the operation, sources said.

The Soliga people are one among the few remaining forest-dwelling tribal people in and around the forests in Southern India. They live in settlements in and around the forests of B.R. Hills, M.M. Hills and Bandipur in Karnataka and in Sathyamangala forests in Tamil Nadu. Having lived inside forests for generations, the Soliga people have an intricate understanding of the flora and fauna.

Soligas are adept at hunting on foot and are good at searching the big cat. They are good at following the trail left by leopards and tigers, said officers. They are expert animal scent-sniffers and they track wild animals especially tigers based on the pug-marks and scent. The tribals are well-versed in age-old hunting techniques, which the Department now plans to make use of.

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It may be recalled here that in October 2019, Soliga tribals were used to successfully track a tiger which had killed two villagers and 18 cattle heads at Chowdahalli on the fringes of Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The feline had terrorised residents of Chowdahalli, Hundipura, Mangala and surrounding areas.

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