Kumram Bheem Asifabad: For about nine decades, life for residents of about 10 villages in Penchikalpet and Dahegaon mandals on the banks of Peddavagu, a tributary of Pranahita river, was peaceful. But in the past three months, it has become a nightmare for them after A2, a tiger from Tadoba-Andheri Tiger Reserve in neighbouring, moved into the Kaghaznagar forest division in November last, and killed two tribals and dozens of cattle so far.
The big cat developed aberrant behavior and has been on the prowl for the past three months. Agarguda, Nadigaon and Gundepalli villages in Penchikalpet mandal and Loha, Digida, Motlaguda, Rampur and Amargonda villages are located on either side of the banks of Peddavagu, a stream that originates in Sahyadri hills of Kerameri mandal. These habitations were established in the early 1900s.
Both tribals and backward communities account for a major chunk of the population in these settlements. These ethnic tribes, Mannevar or Kolam and Koya, depend on the forest for wild grass and bamboo and other forest products to eke out a livelihood. Agriculture is the prime occupation of the backward communities that has been flourishing on account of the fertile land on the banks of Peddavagu.
“Though the villages have comparatively tacky communication, healthcare and education facilities, both tribals and non-tribals are content with what they earn through agriculture and the forests. We are, however, spending sleepless nights for over three months. We feel unsafe to live in our houses, to use roads, to quench the thirst of farm animals in Peddavagu and to take up an agriculture activity. We are literally living under the grip of fear once it turns night,” Digida Sapranch Kova Kanakaih bemoaned.
Their plight can be attributed to the increased movement of A2, a male big cat that drifted into the forests of Kaghaznagar forest division from neighbouring Maharashtra’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in search of territory, prey and water since November last. To their dismay, the tiger continues to be sighted on forest fringes, on roads, at different spots of Peddavagu and keep on depredating cattle in regular intervals, indicating the gravity of the menace.
The tiger killed a tribal youngster Sidam Vignesh (19) when he was fishing in a stream at Digida village in Dahegaon mandal on November 11 last year. It mauled Nirmala (18) to death when she was picking cotton balls in an agriculture field on the outskirts of Kondapalli village in Penchikalpet mandal on November 29 last. It killed over 30 cattle from November to February 15, according to information provided by foresters.
The killing of two tribal youngsters and cattle by the carnivore sent shockwaves among the dwellers of 35 remote yet forest fringe villages located in Penchikalpet, Dahegaon and Bejjur mandal. The serial attacks by the feline panicked hapless residents of habitations located on the banks of Peddavagu which is often frequented by the tiger for quenching its thirst.
The foresters launched an operation to capture the tiger but they stalled it after the big cat left the wild of Kaghaznagar forest division in the last week of January. They are tracking movement of the carnivore by forming special teams whenever it returns to the wild of this region. They are, still, unable to trap the territorial animal and restore the peace in the remote villages.
“Unfortunately, some of these settlements along the coasts of Peddavagu are on the path of the tiger. The people inhabiting the villages are risking their lives as the big cat’s behavior is abnormal and tend to kill cattle and humans if suddenly confronted. Dwellers are being sensitized over precautionary steps to tackle the menace. Still, it is dangerous to live in the habitations, in the wake of movement of the big cat,” a forester opined.
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