India is the home of the tiger. It has the highest concentration of tiger population in the world. For centuries, this beast has been a part of folklore. Today this species has declined and a hundred thousand tigers of yesteryear are down to a few thousand now. Upon awakening, the wildlife foundation and government of India have declared it a protected species and created tiger reserves so that the tiger can live and thrive in its natural habitat. Along with the Lion, the tiger that comes out of the big cats inspires awe and respect. It is a carnivorous beast that feeds on deer, stag, and wild pigs for prey. An adult tiger is a menacing beast and if confronted or opposed it can be a formidable opponent.
Jim Corbett, the famous hunter, made the tiger a part of literature with his book “Man Eating Tiger of Rudraprayag” This is a true story and the tiger in this case had killed more than a hundred human beings. After reading it, one may be tempted to wonder if the tiger is by nature a man-eater. Do you enjoy human flesh?
Tigers as a species generally avoid humans. There are no cases of a tiger that has lived on human flesh since childhood. But again in India thousands of people are reported to have been killed and eaten by tigers. Some put the numbers closer to 300,000. But this is the best estimate. However, there is no doubt that large numbers of Indian villagers have fallen victim to the tiger.
A tiger will turn to humans for prey only if they are incapacitated in some way. There are cases of tigers that have aged or injured and have resorted to attacking and killing humans. Once a tiger cannot catch its natural prey, Darwin’s theory comes into play. The tiger to survive becomes a man-eater and feeds on humans. In such a scenario, the tiger always attacks single humans and generally prevents a group from moving together. Weighing 400 to 500 pounds, the tiger can easily outpace a human. Their modus operandi is usually to jump on the man from behind and grab his neck. If necessary, it will track the man for some time and attack only at the opportune moment. That shows that man-eaters are cunning animals. Man-eating tigers have been found after being killed to be generally incapacitated.
In addition to being a cunning animal, the tiger also appears to have a sixth sense that alerts him when an armed human is approaching. In that case, he will go deeper into the forest or a cave and wait for the right moment. This characteristic of the tiger is well documented in the old British movie ‘Harry Black and the Tiger’ with IS Johar, the Indian actor, as the tiger tracker.
Another reason the tiger becomes a man-eater is pressure on its natural habitat. With India’s growing population and land scarcity, villagers have been encroaching on the tiger’s natural habitat. This results in a shortage of game for the tiger and a healthy tiger could forcefully target a human for survival. Once the tiger finds it easy to kill a human being, he is likely to embark on a man-eating spree. In that case, it becomes a dangerous animal, as it is fit and can give any hunter a chance for their money. While hunting a human being for prey, the tiger follows all the principles of war. Thus, decoy, stealth, surprise, speed are all essential ingredients of a tiger’s action.
There are even cases when the tiger lures the hunter and attacks him. There are many cases of tigers that thrived for years as man-eaters. Of all the tigers in India, the ones that inhabit the Sunder bans in Bengal are unique. This area is muddy and has knee-deep water in many places, however the tiger survives in that environment.
There are cases where these tigers sneak around and take humans away even if they are in a boat.
Jim Corbett has the distinction of killing the maximum number of man-eating tigers.
Once a tiger is confirmed to be a man-eater, the district magistrate will issue a notification and ask the hunters to shoot the tiger. The tiger can be tracked from its pug markings and for this a tiger tracker is a must. The number of man-eaters has now decreased. This is natural as the tiger population has drastically decreased.