This tigress bait smells like a good idea

Forest department's vets ready their tranquillisers to trap the elusive tigress in Bandipur on Wednesday. DH Photo/Soorya V Narayana

The forest department on Wednesday launched a massive manhunt by deploying six elephants and 60 personnel to track the elusive tigress which is believed to have killed three people in the last couple of months in and around GS Betta range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

After failing to trap the tigress on day one, forest officials devised a unique bait to attract the tiger by positioning “skeletal dolls” smeared with blood.

The trap, according to T Balachandra, field director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, is in addition to the cage with a bait. “Though the tigress has been identified and its movement observed, we are unable to catch it. Hence, special traps of skeletal dolls have been planned. We will position these dolls smeared with human blood all over at about five places. We require 100 to 150 ml blood which will be smeared over the dolls. The belief is that the scent of the blood will attract the tiger, thereby making it easier to tranquillise and capture it,” he said.

The search operations will resume on Thursday as early as 6.30 am with the positioning of these dolls and will go on till 6.30 pm. “Our initial assessment has revealed that a female tigress aged about 4 to 6 years is at the centre of the controversy. Though it is a tigress, it has not been seen with any cubs in the last three to four months. We have sent its images to the ICT wing of the department for matching the stripe pattern and to identify the tigress accurately,” Balachandra said.

As the department’s decision to engage professional sharp-shooters Shafat Ali and his son who had killed tigress ‘Avni’ last year met with bitter backlash, officials relied on the department veterinarians to tranquillise the tigress. “We thought these sharp-shooters could easily tranquillise the tigress due to their experience.  But due to stiff opposition from conservationists, we have dropped the plan and have assigned our five veterinarians — Dr Prayag, Dr Muzeeb, Dr Wasim, Dr Vinay and Dr Manjunath — to tranquillise the tigress,” Balachandra revealed.

The three elephants already on the hunt will be joined by three other Dasara jumbos on Thursday. Six teams of forest officials equipped with drone cameras will carry out the search.

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