India to deploy elephants to capture man-eating tigers

Four elephants are set to be deployed to help Indian forest officials capture a tiger, tigress and two cubs which have killed 14 villagers and several cows in the past 18 months in the Ralegaon-Kelapur forest belt of Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, local reports say.

Wagoji Raut became the latest victim of the man-eating tigers when he was attacked by them while visiting his farm in Virgaon village early last month.

The rugged landscape in the Ralegaon-Kelapur forest belt makes it difficult and risky to conduct operations to capture tigers on foot or in vehicles.

The four elephants are due to arrive from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh state. Forest officials armed with tranquiliser darts will be mounted atop these elephants, said K M Abharna, deputy conservator of forest, Pandharkavda.

According to her, this would be the first such operation in Maharashtra targeting a streak of tigers.

The forest department has already set up 63 camera traps and solar lamps at various spots in the 160 sq km forest belt to get a sighting of the tigers, Abharna said.

Some forest rangers are monitoring tiger movements from wooden stands built into forest trees.

In November last year, the forest department had employed two elephants to capture a tigress at Bramhapuri in Chandrapur district. The tigress was later released at the Chaprala wildlife sanctuary in Gadchiroli.

Bhavana Gawali, MP from Yavatmal-Washim, is demanding immediate capture of the big cats and compensation to families of those killed by them.

According to Gawali, man-animal conflicts are rising because of four quarries and a cement factory operating near the forests.

Man-animal conflict is rising along with the tiger count which now stands at 2,500 thanks to conservation efforts.

The move to capture the big cats was initiated last November when the Maharashtra forest department issued an order after a state-level meeting of top forest officials in Mumbai.

The man-eating tigers are roaming a small stretch of farmland filled with lantana grass, Abharna said.

Villagers carrying torches and bamboo sticks are helping forest officials by conducting their own night patrols.