Are Tigers Carnivorous Or Man Eaters Too?

Hello Precious, May I call you that? I don’t know your name and you can replace ‘precious’ with your name if you want. I am Langu the Langur monkey and am the baby in my nomadic family of about 20 people. I say ‘about 20’, because the number of my family members change often.

How you ask? Well, let me explain, my older cousins leave the troop when they are over 13 months old, sometimes the elders leave too, if they find another interesting troop to join, and similarly, someone else from another troop joins us, so it’s really hard to keep count of our ever-evolving family.

We rove cities, jungles and have lots of step-parents, step-uncles and aunts, step-siblings, step-cousins, step-grandparents. And most langurs are fun, playful, protective of their young ones, yet, once in a way, we get a bad-tempered grouch, a dominating unreasonable langur, or a very lazy one. Usually, they are chased away by the others pretty quickly, or they die fighting.

Anyway, I am here to tell you a rather interesting story about a tiger who became a man-eater. Yes, tigers are carnivores, but they don’t eat Humans. Kanha National Park where I live, is in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India’s heartland, and is one of the finest Tiger Reserve in the country. There are close to 500 Tigers in this 940 sq Kms protected forest. We have been roving the lowland forest of Sal and other mixed forest trees and meadows along the Banjar River, since I was born six months ago.

One, bright sunny morning, Mohan Baiga and his wife Manitia Bai of Koluabah village came into the adjoining forest of Bichiya to graze their cattle. They both walked tall and smart, straight-backed and relaxed. They seemed to be enjoying their day and each other’s company. Mohan wore a white Dhoti and Shirt, and red safa, while Manitia wore a red and black lehnga choli, with a red odhni.

They lead three cows named Mani, Maya and Rani and two goats called Changu and Mangu. They sang their favourite Baiga tribal song together as they collected firewood, mahua and tendu leaves.

The Gond and Baiga tribals are subsistence farmers and many support their livelihoods with the collection of NTFP (Non-Timber Forest produce) from nearby forests, like the edible mahua flowers and fruits and tendu leaves that they use to make “pattals”, you know the dry leaf biodegradable plates we use for parties?

The forests of India sustain the lives of over 100 million tribals, and the best part is these communities take care of the trees, waterbodies and wildlife in these forests. They visit the forest and take only what they need in a disciplined and respectful way, they never harm us or hunt us, and neither do they allow others to hunt or poach us. Isn’t that cool, they often give back more than they take, going hungry instead of ravaging the forest?

Do you, like me think these are the real ‘Hot babes’ or ‘Cool men’ the ‘real green people’ of our country? Do you plan to have a ‘green’ career?

Anyway, coming back to the story, after some time, they came to a meadow, and they sat under a tree, amongst their cattle and the Chittals, who were grazing the grass and eating the leaves, half-eaten fruits and seeds we were discarding from the branches above. Suddenly my family, who had a better vantage point from treetops, went into a frenzy, started screaming their alarm calls to warn the animals of a predator approaching us. Our parents hung onto the branches with their long tails and scooped us into their laps.

The Chittal’s instinctively ran away from the approaching tiger and soon disappeared. The cattle ran helter-skelter, and the woman started to herd them in the direction the Chittal’s went. Changu the goat kid strayed away in the other direction. Mohan followed the kid, and as he bent down to scoop the kid up, the tiger jumped, missed the kid and landed on Mohan’s neck, which broke instantly under the tiger’s weight.

Flummoxed, the tiger, dragged Mohan’s listless body into the nearby nulla. Manitia scared and shocked with the unfortunate turn of events ran back into the village screaming for help. By the time the other villagers came back to the spot with ‘lathis’ it was too late. They carried Mohan’s dead body minus one leg, back to the village.

My mother told me later, that the tiger’s don’t eat humans. This was a mistake. The tiger was targeting Changu, and possibly mistook the bent-over the figure of Mohan as the goat kid and pounced on him. However, once a tiger tastes human blood, it can become a man-eater, because it becomes fearless of man. So, you see Precious, everything in nature is cyclic and everything is connected, and one thing flows into another.

I think I really like talking to you. Before I sign off, let me introduce you to my extended Chittal family. While we are two different species, we rove the jungle together as both of us are herbivores and forage the forest for similar food.

I have aunts and uncles in the Chittals group too, they graze on the ground and keep an eye out for us, while we baby cousins’ monkey around them. We love to cart-wheel, and swing on branches of trees, that are parents usually sit on. Do you like monkey tricks? Can you cartwheel and climb trees and swing from branches like Tarzan the ape-man or his partner Jane the ape woman?

–Anuja Sharma/Lucknow

(Inspired by RC Sharma’s book, “The Wildlife Memoirs”. Get a copy and read about the lives of conservators and foresters. “The really cool, green men and real hot green women”. To tell me what you liked or didn’t about this story or what you would like to read about next month write to me at anujoysharma@gmail.com)

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