India sends 'man-eater' tiger to lifetime in captivity

Nearly 225 people were killed in tiger attacks in India between 2014 and 2019, according to government figures (AFP Photo/STR)

New Delhi (AFP) - A tiger blamed for killing three people will spend the rest of its life in captivity, Indian officials said Sunday, saying the big cat was "too dangerous" to be allowed to roam free.

The five-year-old male predator, also blamed for attacking cattle, had embarked on a trek more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) long from western Maharashtra state to central India's Betul district in Madhya Pradesh state in 2018.

"We gave it several chances to re-wild but it habitually went into human habitations," Madhya Pradesh's chief wildlife warden, S.K. Mandal, told AFP.

"The only option left was to put it in captivity to ensure both the tiger and humans are safe."

The tiger -- dubbed the "vagabond" or "nomad" by some local media -- was first trapped in December 2018 after its long journey and held in captivity for two months.

The big cat was eventually fitted with a tracking collar and shuttled between a tiger reserve and a national park.

Officials however said it repeatedly strayed and hunted near human settlements, attacking cattle and endangering humans.

Finally the tiger was tranquilised and sent to a zoo in Madhya Pradesh capital's Bhopal on Saturday.

Officials said the decision to capture the adult tiger was taken a few months ago, but was delayed due to the novel coronavirus lockdown.

"It will take sometime for him to adjust to the new environment. We will be monitoring his behaviour," Bhopal's Van Vihar National Park director, Kamlika Mohanta, told AFP.

"As of now it will remain in solitary confinement. A decision to put it on display at the zoo or send it to a (fenced) safari will be taken later."

Human encroachment on tiger habitats have increased in recent decades in the nation of 1.3 billion people, leading to deadly conflicts with the animals.

Nearly 225 people were killed in tiger attacks between 2014 and 2019, according to government figures.

More than 200 tigers were killed by poachers or electrocution between 2012 and 2018, the data showed.

India is home to around 70 percent of the world's tigers. Last year, the government said the tiger population had risen to 2,967 in 2018 from a record low of 1,411 in 2006.