Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Response to incursion into human habitation

Response to incursion into human habitation: Incursion of tigers into human habitation does not necessarily cause a conflict situation, and in most cases the tiger will move on. However, it does represent a deviation from usual behaviour and is likely to illicit a reaction from local inhabitants. Therefore, reporting and responding to these events should be encouraged.

Tiger Response Teams should visit villages to investigate any reported sightings and provide advice to villagers. Livestock management should be assessed, and where appropriate, improvements  suggested. Camera traps can be placed around the village, with particular attention to the area in which the tiger was seen and areas where livestock are kept. If further reports are made, or the tiger is captured in camera traps, efforts should be made to assess its health status and behaviour. If the tiger appears to be healthy but continues to visit the village or surrounding area, efforts should be made to deter it which may include using scare tactics (“hazing”) with fireworks, flares, cracker shells etc. However, if the tiger appears to be injured, diseased or behaving strangely the risk of conflict may be considered high risk. High risk animals should be captured for further assessment.

Behavioural abnormalities can be subtle and difficult to discern, particularly from photographs. If there is any doubt is better to err on the side of caution. If the tiger does not appear to show an immediate threat, further monitoring and observations is warranted. Causes for concern include an apparent loss of fear of people or exceptionally bold behaviour (such as lying down to rest in the centre of a village), dullness or a lack of awareness, appearing tame or placid and any postural or gait changes. Abnormalities such as loss of fear, may simply be a learned response. Many of the tigers in India’s tiger reserves are habituated to large numbers of vehicles full of tourists taking photos and are far less shy than animals found outside reserves. However, behavioural change may also be a symptom of disease, such as canine distemper,  and should be treated as suspicious until proven otherwise. Whatever the cause, animals which show abnormal behaviour are high-risk and capture and further investigation is warranted.