Tiger territory should be a no man's land

Wildlife conservationists moot the idea of finding an alternative route to Bandipur to preserve the wild

People driving inside Bandipur should stick to a speed of 30 km per hour, say experts.

A recent video in which a tiger is seen chasing a biker at Muthanga forest range in Kerala and adjoining Bandipur forest has prompted forest officials to take measures to protect both the wildlife and travellers. 

The tiger, seen in the video, was earlier spotted in the area for many days before the incident happened, Sanjay Mohan, principal chief conservator of Wildlife tells Metrolife.

Sanjay says that plans are afoot to ensure that the tiger is captured and left deep in the forest. Is there a lot of traffic on this stretch? “No”, says Sanjay.

“The exact location where the tiger was spotted was on the road towards Gopalaswamy Betta range. There are hardly any commuters on this stretch. There are vehicles only when there’s a temple festival in Gopalaswamy temple. The only vehicle that can transport people to the range is a bus,” he explains. 

Was the intention really to attack the two bike-borne men? “This is a young tiger and as the population of young tigers increase, they tend to move around to seek their own space and territory. Its intention was not to attack. Tigers are shy animals by nature,” adds Sanjay.

Sridhar Punati, Principal Conservator of Forest, says closer scrutiny of the video shows that the tiger is not chasing the bike, but is actually chasing its prey on the other side of the road. “If it wanted to attack the two-wheeler riders it would have run after them which it didn’t,” adds Sridhar. 

He observes that tigers are indeed afraid of human beings, “A tiger attacks a human being only if it is old or handicapped. Humans become easy prey only when they don’t find food elsewhere. Tigers and panthers attack humans only when they are cornered,” he informs. 
  Sridhar says the night ban on traffic in the forest has helped the animals move around freely at night. “When there is too much vehicular movement, the animals feel compartmentalised and restricted,” he adds. 

What advise does Sridhar have for people who take the Bandipur route during the day? “The permissible speed limit is only 30 km per hour. We tell people not to drive too fast and stick to a speed of 30 km per hour. Don’t go slow, don’t go too fast and do not stop.”

City-based wildlife biologist and scientist Sanjay Gubbi wonders why the video triggered so much panic. He explains, “If you notice the video carefully, the tiger is running parallel to the motorbike before it appears on to the road. Since the mobile camera was already on, it is clear that the riders knew of the tiger’s presence. The tiger pursues the motorbike almost like it does a prey animal. It abandons its chase when it realises that the motorbike was faster, and the motorbike along with the riders were large in size”  

Do tigers usually roam around during the day? Sanjay explains, “They have a mix of nocturnal and crepuscular (animals that are active primarily during twilight) behaviour. But occasionally, when the weather is cool, they can be seen moving about during the day time.”  

He feels that people need to be more sensitive towards the wildlife. “People must respect that places like Bandipur are for wildlife. Driving with minimum disturbance and speed, picnicking inside forests, littering — all disturb wildlife directly or indirectly.”

Try alternative routes to preserve the wild

Bandipur forests connect Karnataka to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Many take this route to travel to Ooty and Wayanad. In an effort to conserve the wild and offer minimum disturbance, Sanjay Gubbi urges travellers to explore alternative routes. 

“It would be ideal to use the alternative road and permanently close the NH-212. It’s only 35 km longer, but certainly reduces the impact of vehicular traffic on wildlife,” he says. He also points out that places like Bandipur form only 5% of the country’s landscape, “We should give priority to wildlife conservation in these areas and not for vehicular traffic,” he adds.

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