A tiger at the Ranthambore National Park, India. Image Credit: TNS

Apparently even big cats have their preferences among perfumes. Hunters searching for an elusive tiger-turned-maneater in the forests of the western Indian state of Maharashtra a few months ago were seriously mulling the idea of using Calvin Klein’s Obsession to lure the animal which had been evading capture and suspected to be responsible for several human deaths.

The Calvin Klein cologne contains a powerful ingredient called civetoproven which has been scientically proven to drive wildcats crazy. According to the New York Times, “they roll around in it, they take huge sniffs, they luxuriate in the smell for several minutes”.

The tigress, named T-1, was the mother of two cubs. This time the cologne was used to lure the tigress into the open so that she could be shot with a tranquilliser. However, things went horribly wrong when she charged at the people trying to capture her. She was then shot and killed by a hunter from Hyderabad who says that the operation was carried out on orders of the Maharashtra forest department and upheld by the Supreme Court.

This killing provoked outrage in the country, with politicians joining in the fray. Animal activists were planning a global march for November 11, 2018, when they heard about the death. They had been fighting to save T-1 as soon as they heard about the manhunt being launched after she was accused of killing 13 villagers. The number of deaths has been disputed. She had eluded capture for about six months despite authorities deploying drones to track her movements.

The activists contend that there was no effort made to tranquillise T-1 and call it cold-blooded murder. They have vowed to protect her cubs, whose survival is now threatened.

Safety of animals

It is sad that as cities and towns expand to accommodate a burgeoning population, wildlife, the original inhabitants of forests, is being forced to trespass into territory taken over by man for reasons such as farming, mining and other activities. I remember reading about a leopard wandering into a house on the outskirts of Hyderabad some decades ago, probably in search of food. The residents were terrified and, eventually, the animal was tranquillised and taken away.

However, there have been so many cases where the animal is killed as fear prevails over common sense.

Soon after the killing of T-1, newspapers have been reporting other deaths such as a tigress in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve area being killed by angry villagers who ran her over with a tractor after she attacked a local resident. These villagers have rejected all proposals of the forest department to relocate elsewhere as they depend on forest produce for their livelihood. It is ironic that the tigress was killed in an area earmarked for the safety of animals.

This kind of conflict between man and beast will continue until steps are taken to educate people on respect for the rights of wildlife in their natural habitats and the government takes action to prevent indiscriminate use of forest land for activities such as mining.

Meanwhile, the hunter in the eye of the storm says the cubs are sub-adults, capable of hunting and surviving on their own. He adds that he has been asked by the chief wildlife warden to come back and tranquillise the cubs. Three tiger trackers are on the job and 100 camera traps have been set. The plan is to use live bait to localise their movements and then they can be tranquillised.

If the decimation of magnificent creatures such as the tiger continues due to sheer apathy, there will no longer be tigers “burning bright in the forests of the night” in the evocative words of the poet William Blake.

Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.