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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why big cats kill humans in India ?

Man eating by big cats is not a new phenomenon, somewhere down below man could have been in the food chain. But as the species (homo sapiens) evolved into a more intelligent form they removed themselves from the instinctive arena.

The personae of modern man is indeed intimidating - especially the upright posture which animals always perceive as larger. The gregarious behavior of humans living near tigers could be another reason. Or long back humans must have succeeded in proving themselves as superior beings in conflicts. Then series of senseless brutality by hunters did the rest. The destructive weapons/guns became an object of fear which passed on to the coming generations instinctively.

The tiger and leopard finds man as naturally threatening. As tertiary carnivores, tigers and leopards have limited energy and always go for larger kills that can be obtained easily. Another factor is the mass to energy spent is not always favorable, with average weight of rural malnourished women in India being 50 to sixty KG or perhaps much less. Women wander deeper into the forests in search of fire wood and minor produce.E.g. Corbett.

Throughout evolution genetic coding changes and the tiger instinct changed too. Hence somewhere along, the instinct made tigers/leopards distance themselves from humans. But instances of man eating continue, though the initial attack is in self defense out of sheer fright and surprise.  Extreme hunger due to inability to kill prey also induces tiger to kill anything that comes easily including wandering humans. 

Most of the man eating cases subsequently turn into premeditated attacks. By stealth and surprise is how the tiger hunts - so does the leopard. But the latter can be more damaging since it lives near the confines of villages.  

I do not believe that man eating is an aberrant behavior always. This can happen in case of drastic reduction in prey base, the animal than looks for alternative food. Young animals rarely turn man eaters by intent.  In old/injured animals man killing may be need based as often it is in the case of cattle lifters. The bold term I find as pressing further ignominy on the beleaguered animal since fact is the cattle are intruders.  Tigers never eat stones as it is not their food, so why would they eat humans if we do not constitute as food?

Humans and big cats often came in close proximity whence forests were widespread. Due to large forest cover the spacing mechanism kept humans and big cats apart most of the time. But this does not work anymore. The forests are scarce and you have humans intruding everywhere. Accidental killing and territorial clash (breeding females) do the rest of the damage. Due to political urgency it is the animal that suffers since no alternative is provided in time. Corbett is prime example of women being killed by tigers.the recent news of another kill in Sunderkhal in Corbett is troubling. Which tiger did they eliminate? What are they doing there?

Whenever I have encountered a tiger, I have seen its stress level rise out of fear. Though there have been sudden aggressive charge often, but the distance is maintained. This is a protective instinct that make big cats withdraw. Their genetic coding passed on from generations induces fear of  man naturally thanks to past experience - a natural protective mechanism.   

The tigers and leopards always move away from man as I have experienced except whence on some purpose. There is no such thing as greater degree of acclimatization with man. Even in remote depth of forests where tigers rarely come across man their behavior is more or less the same. By instinct they shy away from man. But I have heard many times of tigers sitting for long, blocking the roads near forests in spite of the fact they were not conditioned as in tiger reserves (?). When on work the animal ignores man completely in cases like territorial marking and on search of female. This applies to non conditioned tigers as well. Being nocturnal it is always less seen.

The problem with human society is that we have not learned to treat other life forms as equal. The best we treat them is as pariah or vermin an excuse to ravage their home land. Mining in India is the worst scourge followed by carcinogenic industries -  all a short term solution for burgeoning unskilled populace. Populace surviving on infertile soils and denuded forests.          

Amazing India will cease to stress its point the way we are destroying natural lands in pursuit of short term economic gains. Everywhere forests and other remaining habitats are being destroyed recklessly or at unseen pace. It is humans first!

Jago re India Jago re!
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