The tiger that strayed out of the forests of Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit on Monday night was on Tuesday declared a man-eater.
The decision followed the failure of wildlife officials to tranquilise the tiger that mauled a 14-year-old boy in Serai-Belari village in Barabanki district, about 40 km from Lucknow on Monday night.
The state's chief wildlife conservator B K Patnaik, who rushed to the village where the tiger had taken cover in the thick lantana bushes, ordered his men to shoot down the animal since it had taken a human life.
"This tiger's behaviour has been quite unusual ever since it strayed out of the woods and has been causing panic among the people of Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Barabanki and Lucknow districts where it had remained on the prowl; first it had first made a futile attempt at eat a man in Pilibhit and now it has killed a boy. There is enough reason to declare it as a man-eater," Patnaik said.
Asked if dilly-dallying on the part of his departmental officials is responsible for turning the feline into a man-eater, Patnaik told rediff.com: "Well, our objective all along was to save the animal, especially since it is not even three years old. But now we have no option but to shoot it down."
He added: "Of course, if possible, we will still try to tranquilise it, but now our officials have the freedom to shoot it down in case they find it inevitable."
Four two-member teams of shooters had fanned out on four trained elephants drawn from the Dushwa National Park, across the 80-acre forest around Serai-Bilari, where the remains of the body of 14-year-old Khushi Ram were discovered by the shell-shocked villagers early Tuesday morning.
"Our teams are equipped with both tranquiliser guns as well as lethal rifles to overpower the tiger under all circumstances," said Patnaik.
Wildlife activists squarely blame the official machinery for compelling the tiger to find an easy prey in a human being. "When you keep on chasing a tiger, which is out of its natural habitat, he is bound to look for food and would be eventually forced to attack human beings," observed Kaushlendra Singh, member of the Uttaranchal Wildlife Board.
Singh, who resides in Lucknow, told rediff.com: "Ignorance and lack of concern for wildlife on the part of officials was responsible for first compelling the young tiger to devour a human being and thereby creating circumstances to allow it to be gunned down."
He said: "The state must order a probe into the callousness and apathy on the part of officials to allow the situation to reach such an extent that we are allowing an endangered species to be killed; and their negligence must not be condoned at any cost.
"I am sure if the chief wildlife conservator had initially taken as much interest as he was doing now after a human kill, the tiger could have been pushed back into its natural habitat."