(CBS) — The hunt for a tiger blamed for more than a dozen fatal attacks on humans has sparked controversy in India. The female tiger, known as T1, has terrorized villagers in the western state of Maharashtra.
According to BBC News, India’s supreme court rejected an appeal that would have stopped rangers from killing the tiger. There’s been a successful conservation effort in the country in recent years, resulting in something of a comeback for the species. But as the tiger population grows, the region is also dealing with rapid deforestation which has reduced the predators’ natural habitat.
“There are these several dozen tiger habitats that are now too small for a growing tiger population and are actually being reduced and cut off from each other by new infrastructure projects, by new construction projects and so on,” said Alex Kliment, Signal newsletter writer for GZERO Media.
BBC reports India is home to 60 percent of the world’s tigers, and the tiger population there increased about 30 percent from 2011 to 2014, when a census counted 2,226 of the animals.
Kliment said another reason why tigers are coming into contact with humans is because of India’s overpopulation of cows, which are considered sacred to Hindus.
“Once cows are under-producing milk, generally what milk farmers do is they kill the cows or sell them,” Kliment said. “Because [India’s farmers] can’t do that, there’s this huge population of underfed, mangey cows wandering around which draws tigers out of the forest to have a bite.”
The government started compensating victims of the tiger attacks. But Kliment said that’s caused others to go to known bait areas in an effort to get attacked for the money. That may not be so surprising, with millions of people living below the poverty line.
“Rural poverty is still a huge issue, so in this sort of crazy story about tigers and people you actually see that there’s a real, deeper economic story here,” he said.