Hunting the tiger

Rampant and systematic killing of tigers reportedly began in the 19th Century after North Kanara (now Uttara Kannada) district came under the rule of the British, during which time, large-scale forest degradation also started. Tiger poaching continued in independent India also. Under the British regime, rewards were given for killing tigers. The government reward in the second half of the 19th century was Rs 24 for killing a full-grown tiger, Rs 12 for a half-grown tiger and Rs 6 for a cub.

Colonel W Peyton, the then conservator of forests of the southern division of the Bombay Presidency, has written elaborately about the behaviour of tigers and techniques used in the popular ‘sport’ of killing tigers in Kanara district, citing several instances. He has recorded that the maximum size of the tiger killed in those days was 10 feet and two-and-half inches, while that of a tigress was nine feet and two inches.

Peyton, who wrote the section on Wild Animals in North Kanara Gazetteer records the following: In North Kanara, during the twenty-two years from 1856 to 1877, 510 tigers were killed and 44 persons killed by them, one of whom was Lieutenant Power, of the 35th Madras Infantry. Between the years 1856 and 1882, 51 bears were killed and 22 persons killed by them, one of whom was Lord Edward Percy St Maur, second son of the Duke of Somerset.

Between the years 1856 and 1877, 805 panthers were killed and 22 persons killed by them. From these returns, it would appear that the bear is about four times as dangerous as the tiger, that the tiger is about three times as dangerous as the panther, and that the bear is about fourteen times as dangerous to man as the panther. He further records that in five years from 1878 to 1882, 10 people and 4,041 cattle heads were killed by tigers.

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