Tiger scare: Massive combing operation underway in Wayanad

Forest Department officials and guards combing through plantations in Thirunelli in Wayand. Photo: Special arrangement

Wayanad: The recent flare-up in cases of tiger raids in the district has put the forest officials on high alert.

While they managed to capture a tigress recently from Moolamkavu near Sulthan Bathery in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, three more are roaming in the forest, sources said.

A team of forest officials and field staff are combing through the plantations and wildlife zones of Thirunelli panchayat for a pack of tigers.

People who live in hamlets in the forest at Panavally and surrounding areas fear coming out of their houses.

A team of officials, with 72 forest field staff, combed the villages of Kolli Colony, Kalvari, Kottakkal Estate and Russelkunnu on Wednesday. A team is continuing its vigil near the forest, sources said.

A team member said they located pug marks of three tigers in the area. They believe they belong to a tigress and its two cubs.

Thirunelli village panchayat president P V Balakrishnan, who was part of the combing operations, said he spotted a tiger while on his way back from the search. He said the animal was crossing his path. The tiger left the spot only when he had screamed aloud “tiger, tiger”, Balakrishnan said.

"It seems a tigress and two cubs have been camping in the Kottamala coffee plantation for several weeks," North Wayanad DFO Martin Lowell told Onamanorama.

“The forest team had ferreted out the family from the plantation into the deep forest. We suspect that a loner tiger is roaming the area now,” he said.

The search and vigil will continue and four forest watchers have been posted in the village to assist local people, he said.

"For the time being the forest department will provide a vehicle to help school children cross the danger zone," he said.

“The forest department is also planning to recruit a few local people as forest watchers,” he said.

Lowell said unkempt coffee plantations have become safe havens for big cats.

“We have approached the Thirunelli village panchayat and also the revenue department to ensure that plantation owners clean the undergrowth,” he said.

The DFO said a team of forest staff will work with the local people till the tiger is trapped.

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