Ponnampet: Twenty-four days have passed after the Forest Department began the operation to capture the elusive tiger and the massive search has yielded no results.
Neither the tiger — that has killed three persons and injured another grievously apart from killing over 18 cattle heads — has been captured nor killed as per the demands of the terrified local residents. People are hesitant to come out of their homes and labour population have vacated the coffee plantations due to the fear of being attacked.
Bellur, Thavalageri, T. Shettigeri, Nemmale, Srimangala — the epicentre of the tiger attack — has seen day-and-night protests by residents since the last eight days where protesters have pitched in tents by the side of the road to exert pressure on the Forest Department to shoot the tiger as per the order issued by the State Government.
Today, a group of protesters are heading towards Deputy Commissioner’s Office at Madikeri to stage a demonstration. The patience of the people is running out and they have accused the Forest Department of staging a drama of capturing the tiger despite having sharp-shooters and tracking experts in the team.
Operation ground report
Meanwhile, a communiqué from the office of Deputy Conservator of Forests, Virajpet Division, said that the tracking operation has been intensified and many teams have been formed to trace the big cat apart from tracking it through camera traps. Though the visuals have not been captured, the feline’s scat has been found along with pug marks at Nemmale village. Soon after the pug marks were spotted near the house of Manira Darshan at west Nemmale, one team was rushed there but the big cat had escaped from there.
A second team conducted combing operation from Nemmale till Srimangala through the Durga Devarakadu while the third team proceeded from Srimangala till the Lakshmanatheertha River. The dog squad (comprising Rana from Bandipur) too searched along with the team but in vain. Likewise, combing operations were conducted at Bellur and Kurchi villages as the local residents reported of hearing the roar of the tiger.
Five to six cattle heads have been tied to trees amidst thickets at different places to attract the beast but this attempt too yielded little success. One more team was readied to watch over the villages in the night and this team too did not spot the big cat.
In a sort of setback to the tiger capture operation, the expert sharpshooter from Bengaluru G. Susheel Kumar, who was appointed by the State to shoot the tiger, has returned to Bengaluru. The Government had appointed Susheel and Tyag Uthappa to lead the shooting operation. They had come to Kodagu on Mar. 8, armed with shoot-at-sight orders. Now only Tyag Uthappa is part of the operation. While the Department claimed that Susheel’s return from the camp site was due to personal reasons, it was widely speculated that there is a lack of coordination between the Department and the sharpshooters.
While on one hand the State has issued the shoot-at-sight orders, the Department officers reportedly told the sharp-shooters that the priority was to capture the big cat and not shoot it to death as per the guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
However, the Department claimed that it was not a setback to the operation and alternative arrangements would be made in the absence of sharpshooter Susheel Kumar.
“The operation has not seen success due to difficult and undulating terrain, foggy atmosphere, and thick growth of coffee plants, increased habitation and disturbance. We are confident of capturing the tiger soon,” Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Director D. Mahesh Kumar told SOM.