14 June, 2021

In The Eye Of The Tiger! Hungry Maneaters Find Pilibhit Easy Meat

Amid the bustle of elections, villages around Pilibhit Tiger Reserve live in the fear of man-eating big cats

A Shadow Lurks
Family members and neighbours of victim Khairati huddle together as night falls
Photograph Suresh K. Pandey
In The Eye Of The Tiger! Hungry Maneaters Find Pilibhit Easy Meat

Twenty four-year-old Jayant Mandal ambled along his sugarcane farm in Pilibhit’s Mandaria village, whistling and fiddling with his phone. It was late afternoon, the April sun shone over the picturesque village and all seemed in order—men at work, ducks walking along in a profile, hens in their pens, buffaloes anchored to pegs. The village is nestled along a forest, and Jayant’s farm sits at its edge. His mud-caked, red-­slippered feet strode the uneven, raised edge of the farm with practised ease. Then, a hint of a flash at the corner of his eye, a fleeting sense of danger. Jayant hadn’t looked up from his phone yet. Why, the serenity of an approaching dusk would stifle any premonitory glimmer. But as Jayant looked up, he saw a full-grown tiger walking towards him. “Itna bada munh tha uska,” he stretches his arms almost three feet to describe the feline’s face, “And he was smacking his mouth with his tongue.”

Jayant, thankfully, had his wits about him, turned around and frantically ran backwards. In his...

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