This story ran in Elements, The New Yorker’s science blog in May 2014. I loved reporting it especially because I conducted a lot of the interviews in Kannada, my mother tongue. You can see the original article here.
Last November, a tiger roaming the outskirts of Bandipur National Park, in southern India, mauled and ate a man named Cheluva, who was a member of the Jenu Kuruba tribe. By the following Tuesday, the tiger had killed two others. The Indian media raised the alarm that a “man-eater” was on the prowl. The government ordered that the beast be shot on sight. “Man-eater,” while technically accurate, did not reflect the tiger’s wretched state: old and weak, with porcupine quills embedded deep in its neck, it had most likely been evicted from its territory by a younger, stronger rival. A few days after the attack, a team of veterinarians tranquilized the tiger and carted it away to a zoo.
Four hundred tigers—more than a tenth of the worldwide population—live in India’s parks and in the Western Ghats mountain range, where their habitat spans more than ten thousand square kilometres. Attacks on the thousands of tribal people who live on park land have been escalating.