TIGER RANTHAMBORE
Increasing clashes with humans owing to shrinking habitat is bringing the tiger under survival pressures.REUTERS

Orders to kill a tiger believed to be a man-eater have been issued in Wayanad in the south Indian state of Kerala following the death of two people.

Coming after the death of a man last week, the latest kill happened when a woman plucking tea leaves in an estate was attacked by the tiger. The two incidents took place within a distance of five kilometres of each other.

An agitated mob blocked officials from removing the woman's body and staged a protest in the area. Protests erupted at various parts of the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.

Protesters demanded an assurance from the district collector that £26,000 (Rs 2.5 million) be given to the relatives of the dead woman. The mob also attacked forest offices and staff quarters in the area.

Following uproar among the local people after the second death, the chief wildlife warden has issued an order to kill the tiger.

According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority norms, elimination of a man-eating tiger by invoking section 11 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 should be the last option.

Tranquilising and capturing is the first option.

A similar agitation by locals and an unmanageable crowd that followed the task force into the forest two years ago ended up with a tiger being killed.

In fact, activists had later claimed that the killed tiger was not a man-eater.

In the latest incident, the body of one of the deceased was found partially eaten, leading experts to suggest it could be an ageing tiger.

A recent incident in the neighbouring state of Karnataka had seen a tiger being captured from a buffer zone outside a protected area and released in another sanctuary, only to be shot under mounting pressure from people there who were scared.

The tiger was a two-year-old cub at the dispersion age and activists insisted there was no direct proof the tiger caught was the one that had killed.

The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala had recently emerged as the most tiger-rich forest in the state with 76 big cats in the latest tiger census.

The Tiger population overall is estimated to be around 2,226, a rise of over 30% since the last count in 2010, up from 1,411 in 2006.

Environmentalists have been critical of the Kerala state's response to the human-animal conflict. The recourse adopted has most often been too harsh on wildlife.

Recently, the government, while expressing concern over the loss of lives in rising human-elephant clashes, had called for relaxation of norms for pre-firing in self defence. Farmers have been seeking licences to kill elephants which raid their crops.

Pressures from the rising human population and loss of natural habitat have seen more cases of wildlife sighted outside the preserves of shrinking protected areas.

The vital corridors that link the wildlife areas have seen large-scale encroachment from infrastructure projects and expanding farmlands. People often enter forests to collect firewood and forest produce.