India is the home to the tiger. It has the largest concentration of Tiger population in the world. For centuries this beast has been part of folk lore. Presently this species has dwindled and a hundred thousand tigers of yester years have been reduced to a few thousand now. Waking up, the wild life foundation and the Indian government have declared it a protected species and created tiger reserves for the tiger to be able to live and thrive in its natural habitat. Next to the Lion the tiger out of the big cats inspires awe and respect. It’s a carnivorous beast which thrives on wild buck, deer and wild hog for its prey. A fully grown tiger is a menacing beast and if confronted or antagonized 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 over a hundred human beings. After reading it one may well be tempted to ask whether the tiger is by nature a man eater. Does he relish human flesh?
Tigers as a species generally avoid human beings. There are no instances of a tiger living of human flesh from childhood. But again in India it is recorded that thousands of people have been killed and eaten by tigers. Some put the figures as close to 300,000. But this is best an estimate. However there is no doubt that vast numbers of Indian villagers have fallen prey to the tiger.
A tiger will resort to human being as prey only if he is incapacitated in any way. There are instances of tigers that have become aged or injured resorting to attacking and killing humans. Once a tiger is unable to catch his natural prey then Darwin’s theory comes into play. The tiger to survive becomes a man eater and preys on humans. In such a scenario the tiger always attacks single human beings and generally avoids a group moving together. Weighing 400 to 500 lbs the tiger can easily over power a human. His modus operandi is usually to jump on the man from the back and catch his neck. If necessary, he will track the man for some time and attack only at the opportune time. That shows that man eaters are cunning animals. Man eating tigers after they have been killed have been found to be generally incapacitated.
Apart from being a cunning animal, the tiger also seems to have a sixth sense that warns him when an armed human being is approaching. In that case he will slink away deeper into the forest or a cave and bide his time. 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 for the tiger to turn into a man eater is the pressure on his natural habitat. With India’s ever growing population and scarcity of land the villagers have been encroaching on the natural habitat of the tiger. This results in shortage of game for the tiger and perforce a healthy tiger could target a human being for his survival. Once the tiger finds it easy to kill a human being, he is likely to go on a man eating spree. In that case he becomes a dangerous animal as he is fit and can give any hunter a run for his money. While hunting a human being as prey the tiger follows all the principles of war. Thus decoy, stealth, surprise, speed are all essential ingredients of a tigers action.
There are instances even of the tiger decoying the hunter and attacking him. There are many instances of tigers thriving for years as man eaters. Out 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 at many places, yet the tiger survives in such surroundings.
There are instances of these tigers moving stealthily and making away with humans 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 as a man eater the District magistrate will issue a notification and ask hunters to shoot the tiger. The tiger can be tracked from his pug marks and for this a tiger tracker is a must. The number of man eaters has now dwindled. This is natural as the population of tigers has declined dramatically.