Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Response to attacks on people

Response to attacks on people : These situations are extremely emotive and must be handled with appropriate sensitivity. In order to respond appropriately it is important to try and understand what kind of attack took place and where it occurred. (See “How to respond if you encounter a tiger”)

If a tiger attacks a person within a protected area or forest and the attack appears to be defensive the situation should be investigated and monitored at first. Attempts should be made to try and understand why the attack took place, – the discovery of a kill in the nearby area or evidence of cubs on camera traps may provide an explanation. Locals should be advised to avoid the immediate area and travel in groups wherever possible, making noise to avoid accidentally surprising tigers. If the tiger appeared healthy at the time of the attack, and no further attacks occur, monitoring should continue but no further action taken. However, if the tiger was reported to be injured or there is evidence of injury on camera trap footage, the tiger should be captured and assessed.

If a tiger attacks defensively in or close to a village the situation may be more complicated. Care must be taken to demonstrate a robust response and avoid potential vigilante groups forming and taking retaliatory action. If the tiger is known or believed to be in the local area, attempts should be made to deter it and scare it away. Whilst making such attempts it is vital to ensure the tiger is not surrounded and has an escape route which leads it away from the village. Surrounding a tiger is likely to result in further conflict and casualties on both sides. Once again attempts should be made to understand why the tiger attacked in the first place and the situation should be monitored closely. During this time the tiger response team should remain in the village. If the tiger attacks again, or there is evidence the tiger is injured, an attempt should be made to capture it for assessment. If there are no further attacks and the tiger moves away from the area, no further action may be required.

Predatory attacks on people, where the tiger attacks silently from behind and at least part of the body is consumed, are cause for serious concern. If these types of attacks have happened in or close to,a village, immediate attempts should be made to capture the tiger responsible and assess it. As described elsewhere, collecting DNA samples from the conflict site may help to confirm the identity of tigers once they have been captured. If a predatory attack has occurred within a forest or protected area the correct course of action may be less clear, and may in part depend upon the level of community tolerance and proximity to human habitations.