Tiger diary 2: Fake news is killing me!

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(Editor's note: Reports of the presence of a tiger in the human habitats in Vadasserikkara in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district have been giving sleepless nights to residents and forest personnel for the past one week. Armed forest officials have launched a combing operation to trap the beast. In this context, we are publishing a fictional tiger trail written by Malayala Manorama reporter A S Ullas, who has been closely following the efforts to find the big cat. This is the second part of the series. Read the fist part here.)

Something disturbs me. Social media is rife with fake news about me. Some say I was trapped, others say I was killed, yet some others even forward photos of a dead leopard to back their claims. A leopard! I feel let down. I am still roaming free.

I was in the Pezhumpara Colony between Vadasserikkara and Maniyar day before yesterday. The tall grass looked like prime hunting ground. I thought I could bump into a gaur inside that. Imagine my frustration when all I could spot was a human walking up the bush, a bidi dangling by the corner of his mouth. (Smoking is injurious to health.) He was not jogging for sure. Our glances crossed each other. He vanished the next second! He returned with three other men within 10 minutes. I thought I should greet the visitors but they were rude. They scooted at the sight of me, as if I were a predator or something.

Can’t blame them. Most of you have not seen a tiger in person. You have seen tigers only on telly. Looking at my available photos and the marks I have left behind, the forest officers have said that I weigh about 250 kilograms and I am 3.5 metres long. I do not watch my calories. I eat whatever I get. Some in my family weigh up to 300 kilograms. We used to be the kings of the jungle.

In case you did not know, a tiger lords over a territory that spans 20 to 50 kilometres. Not even a fly can sneak in without me knowing. I mark my territory by peeing and scratching on tree trunks. I can identify those places whenever. In that sense, we are the guardians of the forest. You must be wondering if I was adding the Thannithode territory to my territory. I do not want to be rude but I really do not care for a territory which has no eatable animals.

This area is not just my type. It is full of rubber trees and steep slopes. We usually settle for plains. The only thing that caught my fancy is the Kattatt River that flows by the village. I overheard someone wishing that I would drown in the river. How foolish can you be? Tigers are legendary swimmers. Some of us can swim for up to 30 kilometres. I call the Periyar Tiger Reserve my home. I have also gone to visit the Gavi forest area. It is an easy walk once you cross the river.

Tigers become solitary when they are old. We may be weakened from old age. We stray to human territory when we have a toothache or some such irritant. Another possible scenario is to lose a fight with another tiger. The loser is expelled from his territory. I go wherever I want to. So be cautious. It seems you have set up some 20 cameras to spot me. There is also talk about a tamed elephant trained to scare away tigers. You can sit over it and be free from your fears while searching for me, but be aware that no elephant can stand my 290 pound blow.

The district collector did a wise thing in putting in place prohibitory orders. At least the country liquor makers will be spared. I can cross 10 metres in a single leap. I strike from behind. Gotta go now. Will keep scratching…er…writing.

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