Tiger T-23 captured by forest officials in Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris after 21-day hunt

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The elusive man-eating tiger has finally been captured in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu after being twice hit by tranquilizer darts in the last 14 hours, forest officials said on Friday.

The tiger had been a menace to villagers in Gudalur and Masinagudi after it killed four people, the most recent being a 85-year-old man, and also over 20 head of cattle and goats, said the officials who were trying to trap it since 25 September.

Upon being informed about its location on Thursday, the officials said they and a medical team went to the Masinagudi-Theppakkadu Road and successfully hit the tranquilizer dart on the tiger at 10 pm. Yet, it gave them the slip.

Then, a group of 50 officials went to the spot, saw the animal in a bush at Kootupara and used another tranquilizer dart which reached home. After ensuring the tiger was unconscious, the officials said they caged it and are now awaiting instructions for further action.

Nearly 100 people, including a few from Kerala and Karnataka, along with two tamed elephants and three sniffer dogs, were involved in the operation to trap the man-eater.

Though there were reports of forest officials receiving orders to shoot the tiger, code named T23, wildlife activists approached the Madras High Court which directed the officials to trap the animal without killing it.

The court, passing interim orders on a petition last week praying for a direction to ensure that the tiger is captured alive and no steps were taken to put it to sleep or otherwise kill it, asked the officials to see to it that few people enter the forest to capture the big cat.

The fourth human death had prompted chief conservator Shekar Kumar Niraj (IFS) to release an order to hunt down the tiger on 1 October. However, on Tuesday, a bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Chennai-based animal rights group People for Cattle in India (PFCI) and ordered the forest department to not "hunt down" the tiger, citing that it may not be a man-eater.

The News Minute reported that court further ordered the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to utilise fewer people on the ground as part of this operation as frequent human movement would cause disturbance and pose a threat to other wildlife. Justice CJ Sanjib Banerjee also emphasised that the tiger must be caught alive as there are already few tigers in India.

The Bench has said that the forest department is free to deal with T23 for its treatment and for ascertaining its conduct and behaviour. The Madras HC adjourned the case after Dussehra holidays, pending a detailed status report from the Tamil Nadu government.

With inputs from agencies

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