Forest officials under fire over delayed catching of man-eater

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Ashwini Y S, Mysore, Dec 8, 2013, DHNS : Forest officials involved in the operation to capture the man-eater tiger who have come under intense scrutiny, were on Sunday taken to task by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah who wanted to know why the tiger had not been captured sooner.

He has also decided to hold a review meeting with the officials in Mysore in this regard on December 13.

The search team failed to tranquilise the big cat on November 30, despite it being spotted several times near Seegevadihaadi in Sargur of HD Kote taluk in the district on that day. This has brought to the fore glaring loopholes in the State Forest department (which is starved of funds, manpower and proper infrastructure) while handling the man-animal conflict.

The department does not even have its own trained veterinarians and is forced to borrow them from the Animal Husbandry department.


To put an end to the controversy, on whether it was human error or defunct equipment that failed to tranquilise the feline when it was first spotted, it has been decided to initiate a departmental inquiry.

This follows a complaint against Dr D N Nagaraj, veterinarian, who was in-charge of the search operation, which began on November 30, a day after the tiger (Shiva) claimed his second victim.

The contention is that had the tiger been captured that day itself, the tiger’s third victim – Basappa from Chikkabargi – would have still been alive.

While Dr Nagaraj has claimed that the gun (dish inject rifle – 1980 model) gave trouble, officials of the department have pinned the blame on him for failing to “load the gun properly”. A much advanced rifle – dan inject rifle – was borrowed from Bannerghatta Biological Park the following day.

When contacted, an extremely upset Dr Nagaraj said that he was aware of the complaint and welcomed the investigation.

“If they think that I have erred, I am ready to go back to my parent department. It is very easy to stand outside and put the blame on the field staff. We work in harsh conditions and there are many practical difficulties, many of which the department has failed to address. Yes, it is true that gun used was very old.

It is a 1980 gun – the very first tranquilising gun bought by the department. The same gun has been used during all rescue operations, and it had not caused any problems.

Four shots were fired. While two shots missed, two others hit the tiger. The gun charger must have failed to go off. It is to be noted that the day the tiger was captured, three shots were fired and only one hit the animal. Tigers, unlike elephants, are really small and it is very difficult to get a good aim of them.”

He said that basic needs and facilities are not provided to the ground staff. “Even veterinarians need to undergo continuous training and update themselves with new technologies. There is need for refreshment courses,” he added.

Vinay Luthra, principal chief conservator of forests, wildlife, said that he had received the complaint. “I would not like to comment on it as yet,” he added.

Luthra, however, conceded that the department was in need of trained veterinarians in wildlife, and a proposal would be made for creation of 15 such posts.

“We will shortly put forward a proposal before the government to create a separate cadre for veterinarians within the department. We are in urgent need of doctors in Bannerghatta, Mysore zoo, Nagarahole, Bhadra and Shimoga.”

Kaushik Mukherjee, chief secretary, said though the government was ready to consider the department’s proposal to create a new cadre for veterinarians, finding trained doctors in wildlife would be “difficult”.

“There is definitely a need for the department to have its own doctors. But getting such people is very difficult as they demand very high salaries.”

He also suggested that the department use the gate revenue collected from national parks like Bandipur and Nagarahole to buy modern devices.


Mukherjee said that a reward of Rs 20 lakh would be presented to the team involved in capturing the tiger, under funds from Project Tiger.

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