The perfume in question is Calvin Klein’s ‘Obsession (For Men)’. The key ingredient is a synthetic version of the musk secreted by the civet cat. HS Prayag, a Karnataka-based veterinarian, is hopeful the method will work to beat the maneating tiger, who’s yet to sniff its way into a cage. Prayag was the first to employ the perfume technique in the country to catch a leopard in Mandya and has been coordinating with officials in Maharashtra this time round.
It was in 2015 that Prayag set out to catch the leopard in Maddur taluk of Mandya (Karnataka). “The leopard was tagged a maneater in 2013. Villagers claimed it had killed a farmer named Shivaraj, though later it was found that he was murdered. The villagers were so angry against the authorities that they had blocked the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway to make their voice heard. The Karnataka forest department decided to capture the leopard, but it remained elusive for two years despite the best efforts of forest officials. Leopards are by nature elusive and this one’s non-uniform movement also posed a challenge,” he said.
The forest officials tried placing a bait in the cage but the leopard never turned up. “I had read about perfume being used to lure big cats in foreign countries. I procured it from a dealer and sprayed it on the bait. It worked and in December 2015, we captured the leopard. I then worked with Tamil Nadu foresters to catch a tiger in Gudalur with the same technique,” he said.
THE BIG CATCH: HS Prayag has asked forest officials to use only original perfume as big cats don’t fall for fakes!
Prayag, who is researching big carnivores, is now helping foresters in Maharashtra and Telangana where tiger capture operations are on. While the search in Telangana is for K4, a tigress with a snare cutting through her stomach, T1, if captured, faces life in a zoo.
Prayag told TOI that he is in touch with the deputy conservator of forests of Pandharkawada, Maharashtra, after they approached him about alternative techniques to capture the tiger. “Wildlife authorities there tried bait-and-cage methods, taking help of camp elephants, drones, camera traps, foot patrolling etc but did not get results,” he said.
Protest in Mumbai to save Anvi the tigress, also called T1, from being killed
His advice to officials: buy the original perfume from a reliable seller; no big cat falls for the fakes sold cheap on some ecommerce portals.
Paraglider to track T1 from the air
It’s not just perfume being used to sniff out T1, which has remained elusive for the past 25 days. The forest department has also deployed a powered paraglider to track the problem tigress from the air.
“The paraglider, which joined operations on Tuesday, will undertake aerial surveys to identify and track the location of the tigress. We will get a better view of the forest from the air to track T1,” said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) AK Misra. The eye in the sky can help in this particular terrain, since it is fragmented forest with sparse vegetation, unlike the dense forests of Tadoba.
A paraglider has been deployed to track T1
Besides this, elephants from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and sniffer dogs are being used to track the tigress. A thermal drone was also deployed, but it’s been unable to trace T1.
On Wednesday, based on pugmarks, it was suspected T1 was somewhere in compartment number 155 near a canal outside Sakhi village.
“While making serious efforts to track T1, we are also battling rumours of animal kills and direct sighting if T1,” Misra said. He added that on Wednesday the sniffer dogs were moved to the spot where there were reports of a kill but did not prove to be of much help.
In the evening, the paraglider joined the search. Rudra Bhanu Solanki, an aero-adventure enthusiast and para motor pilot, who forms part of Hyderabad-based sharpshooter Nawab Shafath Ali Khan’s team, conducted aerial surveys of the forest around Tejni-Sakhi villages to trace and track the location of T1.
Forest officials said the two-seater paraglider will enable Nawab to fly with Solanki to help trail and track T1’s movements across the length and breadth of the jungle, enabling access to areas where approach on foot is not possible.
“The paraglider brought to Pandharkawda can fly up to 400-500 metres high, and doesn’t require Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) permission,” said Khan.
Forest officials said the paraglider has ability to fly both low and slow safely. “We hope the machine prove its merits,” they added.
Dr Prayag from has questioned the failure of the department in tracking T1. “If 200 people are moving in the forest day and night to track the tigress, do you think it will come out?” he asked.
Prayag said T1 cannot be declared a man-eater as it is killing bait and cattle. “Since August 28, it has not killed or harmed any human. Man-eater tigers prefer humans over their natural prey,” he added.
Ex-sarpanch of Tejni Devidas Mangi said, “The team needs to surround T1 by entering her hideouts with the help of locals. Moving about in the forest and on roadside won’t help.”