Locals claim to have seen another tiger 74 kilometres away from the location of the first one, which wandered into the Mahisagar area four years ago.
Residents of Janod village, 150 kilometres from Dahod, claim to have seen a striped animal, but forest officials maintain that it is indeed a leopard. The incident has caused excitement and concern among the locals, who have made the decision to go outside only in groups until the animal is caged. Only Gujarat, a state in western Asia, is devoid of tigers.
Even in 2021, villagers had reported seeing a tiger, but the forest officials claimed it was actually a leopard, thus the report was a wet squib. This time as well, N V Chaudhary, the deputy conservator of forests, has disregarded the complaints of the Janod locals.
He said, “We have deployed our teams in the area and are searching for the animal. We have yet not found pug marks, excreta or prey to ascertain the presence of a wild cat.” The department has deputed J P Chaudhary, the range forest officer, in the village to gather evidence.
The locals, though, are adamant that they saw a tiger. A Janod local named Babar Machi claimed to have seen the tiger last Friday on his way back from the fields.
“I am a teacher and I know the difference between a leopard and a tiger. It was striped, not spotted. It was around 6.45 pm when I saw the animal walking towards the ravines near the Mahi. I even flashed a torch at it to be able to see it clearly. I can say with confidence that it was a tiger,” he claimed.
Jayvir Solanki, the deputy sarpanch of Janod, said that locals claimed to have even seen the pug marks. “The forest department has informed the panchayat that it may have been a leopard, but the villagers are not taking any chances. If they must venture out, they do so in groups,” said Solanki.
According to forest officials, it appears improbable that a tiger could have wandered into Janod, which is 150 kilometres from Dahod, without anybody else having seen it. He did, however, acknowledge that the department had initially denied the existence of the tiger in Mahisagar in 2019 but had been later shown to be mistaken. Within a fortnight of being seen, the animal had starved to death.
The Jethola locals claimed to have witnessed a tiger attacking a cow in January 2021, but the tiger’s presence was not confirmed. In the meantime, the Samghan range near Saputara is being developed into a tiger safari park by the state forest department.