Human – tiger conflict: Another incident just waiting to happen…

It was really disappointing this morning to get news that people were still illegally entering a jungle area where recently someone had been killed by a tiger. I got the news as an anti-poaching team was showing me where a tigress with two small cubs, maybe only two or three months old, had been frequently using a fire line very close to the range post. There are few animals on the planet which will react more violently to disturbance than a tiger with offspring.

Seeing and hearing all this I got that same sinking feeling I’ve had before where despite constant warnings of an attack, someone will soon be taken. I’ve expressed my frustration many times before in the context that so many attacks could have been avoided if people modified their behaviour. I contacted one my team, we’ll help with cameras and monitoring in late afternoon and we’ve been busy getting guidelines into the community, trying to effect social change. The area I’m referring to is a hotspot, there’s not just been this recent fatality on top of many in the area, it’s also had snare trap issues including the horrible death of another tigress.

The issue here is not tigers entering human areas, it’s people entering tiger areas. Although there can be cross over in shared space dynamics, where I was this morning was protected area, restricted access and cut off from tourism activity. I know the area well through a leopard project and it has had problems of disturbance as local people forage for livestock fodder outside designated zones. Once again, economic and livelihood issues come into the equation but sadly, above all, it is this reluctance to adhere to guidelines and in many cases blatantly break the law.

It has a serious ripple effect. People and big cats have died, tigers have gone to jail. All of this is preventable or at least can be markedly reduced. Education is the ultimate answer, it’s the big solution but change is slow and this current situation represents that.

Teams risk their lives protecting the forest. Patrolling is becoming increasingly dangerous and what many people don’t seem to understand is that it isn’t just about protecting the wildlife needed for ecosystems to function, it’s about the safety of people living in these places, living with big cats isn’t easy. Extra effort, at a time when resources are already stressed, ,will go into the location I’ve just described … watch this space.