‘Man-eater’ of Wayanad captured alive, tension rises as residents want the tiger killed

The Forest Department is yet to establish if the same tiger had killed a dairy farmer 10 days ago yet residents are baying for the big cat's blood.

ByK A Shaji

Published Dec 18, 2023 | 5:46 PMUpdatedDec 18, 2023 | 5:46 PM

The captured Wayanad man-eater tiger. (Supplied)

Kerala’s Wayanad district is witnessing a protest, on Monday, 18 December, after the Forest Department captured a tiger, suspected to have killed a dairy farmer 10 days ago.

Hundreds of farmers of Poothadi and neighbouring villages laid siege to a vehicle that was to ferry the trapped tiger to a rehabilitation centre. They wanted the animal killed.

The protesters raised slogans against the Forest Department and the government, and claimed that the same tiger — codenamed WWL-45 — had killed 36-year-old farmer M Prajeesh at Koodallur near Vakeri. Prajeesh’s partially eaten body was found on 9 December.

WWL-45, a 13-year-old male, was included in the tiger census database.

The situation remained tense as forest officials clarified that the norms did not allow the killing of a captured animal. Senior forest and police officers have rushed to the area ever since trouble started brewing by around 2:30 pm.

Related: Normal life affected in Wayanad villages as man-eating tiger continues to roam free

Caught inside coffee plantation

Officials said the tiger was trapped in one of the seven cages set up in the locality. The tiger had walked into the cage set up in a coffee plantation, close to where Prajeesh’s body was found.

The tiger, WWL-45, captured by camera traps. (Supplied)

The tiger, WWL-45, captured by camera traps. (Supplied)

Following Prajeesh’s death, an order was issued to kill the tiger if it could not be caught alive. The order was issued based on the demand of the residents, mostly farmers.

The residents claimed that the tiger had been roaming the locality for a long time.

A 60-member team of experts had been combing the forests for the past 10 days. Kumki elephants Bharat and Vikram, too, were part of the search operations. Renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr Arun Zachariah, too, had joined the team.

The tiger was trapped on Monday morning. Residents claimed the same tiger had attacked a cow after forcing itself into a cattle shed three days ago in the same locality.

Meanwhile, the forest department said it was yet to confirm if the captured tiger was the one that had attacked Prajeesh. An analysis of photographs collected through camera traps would be required to establish its identity.

Earlier, experts said a tiger could not be termed a man-eater based on a single instance.

Related: Life in the shadow of Wayanad’s sabre-toothed predators