Alarm in forest as tiger chases passing bikers

It happened last week some distance from Bandipur. As wild animals run out of space even in protected areas, they are becoming more desperate… and dangerous. Tourists, take note

Two bikers had a narrow escape at the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary when a tiger gave them the chase of their life before it disappeared into the forest.

Teetering on the brink of ecological collapse, India is waking up to the dangers of encroaching on natural spaces. A recent video of a tiger briefly chasing two bikers, just a little distance from Bandipur, underlines the increasing desperation of wild animals. 

Wildlife photographer and guide Shaaz Jung calls the video ‘shocking’. “It embodies the conflict today between man and animal. Successful management of tiger reserves increases the population of wildlife but with encroachment and shrinking forests, there is bound to be severe conflict, especially with territorial and migratory animals,” he says.

Shaaz describes the incident as ‘terrifying.’ Formulating policies that help mitigate this conflict should be the utmost priority, he says.

Avid biker Prathima Hebbar says the authorities should impose a blanket ban on traffic on the Wayanad-Bandipur road.

“Despite an increasing number of animal attacks, the Kerala government still wants the ban on night traffic on NH-766 lifted. That road should have no traffic at all in the first place. Many heavy vehicles pass through the eco-sensitive area, and there are many accidents and animal roadkills because of this,” she says.

Prathima has had a similar experience on the same Wayanad-Bandipur road. “Once an old tusker almost charged at me. However, I didn‘t panic and rode away as fast as I could,” she says. 

Elevated bridge over Bandipur?
The fragile Western Ghats have many roads crisscrossing; nearly 72 of the identified 88 elephant corridors in the country have national highways or major roads passing through them. The central government recently proposed an elevated road over the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. This was rejected by the Karnataka government, but the fact that such proposals still see the light of the day makes you wonder about the wisdom of our planners.

Keep this in mind
“It is highly difficult to predict the behaviour of tigers in the wild, or any other animals for that matter. Not just bikers, anyone driving through forested areas needs to be alert and attentive to the surroundings. Keep in mind that visibility through thick undergrowth in forests can be a challenge for humans and animals crossing the forests,” says Adarsh NC of Felis Creations, a visual arts company that works on wildlife documentaries.

What happened
The video shows two persons on a bike riding through the Pembra area inside the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, and shooting the picturesque locale. The man recording the video suddenly notices a tiger chasing the bike and yells at the driver to go faster. The tiger chases them for a few seconds before disappearing into the forest on the other side.

Tips for forest trippers
Biker Prathima Hebbar says responsibility and co-existence are the keywords. “When I know that I am entering their space, I ensure I don‘t disturb the animals,” she says.

Some simple steps she recommends

  • No unnecessary honking. Stick to stock exhausts as these disturb neither humans nor animals.
  • Don‘t stop anywhere. Many people stop inside thickly forested areas to click pictures. That‘s very risky.
  •  Many people who drive on that particular stretch are drunk. They litter the road and yell at the top of their voices. They should be penalised and prohibited from entering forests.
  • Don‘t throw food or food packets on the roadside, it attracts animals from inside to the periphery. 

Encounters increase, empathy needed
A few days ago, a video of a herd of elephants pushing two cars in the Bhakrakot area, close to the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand, went viral. This is one of many examples of wild animals getting annoyed with humans: there have been sloth bear attacks on people near the Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Gujarat, Asiatic lions and wild asses have entered human settlements, crocodiles have venturing to land in search of water. In 2018, more than 200 leopards have been killed in road accidents across India. Every year, we lose about 400 people and 50-60 elephants to such conflicts.

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