What was especially frightening about that attack was that Mr. Raut had been standing in the middle of a ring of cattle when he was tugged down by the neck. None of his cows were touched. He was believed to have the 12th victim.
Based on DNA tests, images from remote camera traps, numerous spottings and tiger tracks, the authorities have pinned at least 13 killings on T-1, who was believed to have been around 5 years old. She consumed chunks of flesh from several people she killed, and tiger experts say she clearly developed a taste for people, as opposed to killing them because she felt threatened.
It’s extremely unusual for a single tiger to have attacked that many people, which is why the authorities declared her a man-eater and mounted the full-scale hunt. Previously, young men in the nearby villages — tiger vigilantes, essentially — had patrolled with torches and bamboo sticks hoping to find her.
A crafty man-eating tiger on the loose might sound like something out of a Kipling story. But it’s actually a very real — and growing — problem in today’s India.
The country’s effort to protect tigers, in a way, is a victim of its own success. India’s critically endangered tiger population is soaring. Closer monitoring, new technology and stricter wildlife laws have led to a sharp increase in the tiger count, from 1,411 in 2006 to an estimated 2,500 today. But the rising numbers have led to increased conflict.
India’s human population and its economy have been rapidly growing as well, steadily filling in rural areas with farms, roads, and mushrooming towns. Many tigers are now running out of space.
They’re spilling out of their dedicated reserves, roaming along highways and skulking through crowded farmland in search for territory, mates and prey (such as antelope, wild pigs, stray cattle and, yes, sometimes people).
T-1 never lived in a dedicated tiger reserve; 30 percent of India’s tigers don’t. She roamed a forested area of about 60 square miles just on the edge of busy farmland near the town of Pandharkawada. Even if she had lived, according to the authorities, T-1 could never have been reintroduced into the wild.