Live Bait

Human dwellings keep expanding, but wildlife habitats keep shrinking. Wild life understands no boundaries and so animal-human encounters occur. Whose fault is it then, that leopards from forests invade surrounding human civilisation? Panic makes humans capture them usually with the help of dogs, goats or calves used as live bait. It is illegal. It is also unethical. Live bait is a living animal considered prey (food) that is used to deliberately lure another animal.

A ban on the use of live bait was one of the several suggestions given by Beauty Without Cruelty to the Government of India when the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Act, 1960 was amended in 1982. However, despite this legislation, against the use of live bait, BWC has found that none other than the Government of India (including a few Defence units) uses live bait as prey for carnivorous animals. Live bait has also been used by the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, in order to trap a leopard.

On several such occasions a strong protest has been lodged by BWC, resulting in an assurance given (a few signed by Union Ministers themselves) that the practice would be discontinued. Nevertheless, some wild life authorities have cunningly devised a special trap for the purpose: in one compartment the live bait — usually a dog — is kept; the other compartment traps the big cat — usually a leopard. Although the dog cannot be physically harmed by the leopard, it is subjected to night-long, unimaginable terror. It’s no different for a poor goat.

In December 2020 the office of Divisional Conservator of Forests, Solapur, issued orders against a 6-7 year old leopard which was moving within 4 districts and had killed/mauled 12 persons. The order stated “catching the leopard in a cage or with the use of a tranquilizer would be the first options. In case that fails, permission to kill the leopard has been granted under section 11(1)(A) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to prevent further loss of human life.” The Forest Department therefore launched a massive operation involving 80 personnel, laid 21 cages, and installed 42 trap cameras following which the animal was shot dead in Bitergaon village of Karmala taluka a fortnight after it was first sighted.

The Maharashtra Forest Department has been capturing/hunting man-eater leopards since 2007, particularly in the wildlife buffer of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve considered as one of the worst man-animal conflict zones. They have begun keeping a goat inside the trap cage and another outside the cage. Their logic being that if the leopard doesn’t enter the cage, it may decide to eat the goat outside and therefore not attack a human.

The Maharashtra State Forest Department’s Human-Leopard Conflict Management Guidelines says trapping leopards is permitted as per Section 11 of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, only if it attacks people in an area, not if it has simply been sighted near a village, inside a chicken coop or attacked a goat outside a house, not even if pugmarks are found in a village or it attacked people who were chasing it. The document also gives specifications of the trap cages to be utilised and much more, but no where in the document does it state what should be put into the cage to lure the leopard.

In 2021 ResQ (a Pune NGO working for animals) began conducting programmes at villages where leopards had been spotted, in collaboration with Bharud performance artists whose songs about why leopards are being spotted on agricultural land, animal behaviour, safety precautions that need to be taken by humans for themselves and their families, and what to do if one is confronted by a leopard, were well attended and found enjoyable, amusing due use of puns, and easy to remember.

In September 2021 an order to “hunt” a 13-year old male tiger of the Mudumalai Division in Tamil Nadu that had killed three persons was issued under Section 11(a) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 with the aim of only capturing or trapping the animal and not shooting which would be the last resort.

The Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines (u/s 38(O) of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972) issued in November 2019 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to deal with “Emergency arising due to straying of tigers in human dominated landscapes” states
“8(e) In case of confirmed livestock depredation/human injury/fatal encounters or frequent straying of tiger near human settlements set traps (automatic closure) with appropriate luring while avoiding disturbance, to trap the animal.” Under “Suggested Steps on Loss to Human Life Due to Tiger/Leopard” this document also states to “Set up trap cages (automatic closure) in areas most frequented by the carnivore (with appropriate luring) for trapping.”

The same document under Design and Related Details of the In-Situ Enclosure to accommodate 2 tiger cubs recommends release of prey in enclosure (read canned hunting by tigers) and states
“3. Design: a. Two concentric circular plots with the inner circle being 10-15 hectares and the other being 35-40 hectares. The inner plot will house the tiger while the outer shall house the prey species.
5. Release of Prey: The release of prey shall be done in an irregular manner based on the last kill by the tiger so as to approximate natural conditions to the extent possible.
a. Prey population in the enclosure should be monitored for their health status and should be periodically released back in the wild vis-à-vis the habitat status to avoid stress/starvation.
b. Further, their release to the carnivore portion of the enclosure should be suitably adjusted by facilitating their passage from the larger, non-carnivore section.
c. The entire process has to be done erratically, following no fixed schedule and with minimum extraneous noise to prevent the development of a Pavlovian reflex in the tigers. Provision may be made to douse the sounds of the forest environment. However, here too care has to be taken to avoid conditioned reflexes developing in the tiger by playing these sounds even when food is not being introduced.”

Furthermore, the chapter “Standard Operating Procedure to deal with Orphaned/Abandoned Tiger Cubs and Old/Injured Tigers in the Wild” states
10i. Rearing the tiger cubs in-situ enclosure for wilding/re-wilding towards subsequent release in the wild
(k) A portion of the in-situ enclosure should be exclusively maintained for in-situ rearing of natural prey animals which are sympatric in the habitat without any inter-specific avoidance.
(l) Since natural wild prey increase in number in carnivore prone enclosures, an assessment of their number should be periodically done for releasing an appropriate number back in the wild to avoid stress conditions within the enclosure owing to competition for food and cover.
(o) The tiger cubs should be reared in the in-situ enclosure for a minimum of two years, and each cub should have a successful kill record of at least 50 prey animals, since ‘wilding’ process requires time.

“Standard Operating Procedure to deal with Tiger depredation on Livestock” states
“8. Causes/reasons/circumstances leading to tigers feeding on livestock:
a. Humans let loose their cattle in forest areas for grazing.
b. People tend to encroach upon forest land exposing their livestock to predation.
c. Tigers disperse into human dominated landscapes when the carrying capacity of a source area is achieved, forcing them to prey on livestock.
e. Tigers may become habituated to feeding on livestock due to the principles of optimal foraging.


Solution


Beauty Without Cruelty has recommended to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, that if and when it becomes absolutely necessary to trap a leopard because it has become a ‘nuisance’ the remains of the animal it has last killed be used as bait (never a live animal such as a calf, dog, goat or hen) as the leopard, unable to finish eating its prey in one sitting, invariably returns the next day to the same place where it killed its prey.

The Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines (u/s 38(O) of Wild Life Protection Act, 1972) issued in November 2019 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to deal with “Tiger depredation on Livestock” states at “9(f) The first 24 hours, after detection of the carcass, of observation are critical in context of the tiger returning to the kill and finishing feeding.” This re-confirms that the animal returns the next day.


BWC has also pointed out that leopards and hyenas thought to be the cause of missing or mauled children is much later found to be innocent as it has come to light that some psychotic human beings were involved in the murders.

Leopards are known to live undisturbed by humans in sugar cane fields till harvest time between January and April. Man-animal conflicts arise then because leopards taken by surprise, attack humans. (They also find safe shelter in banana plantations.) Studies have shown the density of leopards in the sugar cane fields of Junnar (Maharashtra) is higher than in reserved forests. For example, in February 2018, three leopard cubs were charred to death in a sugar cane field near Ozar (Pune-Nashik Highway, Maharashtra). The fire was suspected to have started from a short circuit in an overhead power cable. Then in 2019 five new born cubs were burnt to death in Ambegaon taluka’s Manchar (Maharashtra) when farmers started a fire to kill a poisonous snake. However, three month-old leopard cubs discovered during harvesting in a sugar cane field at Nagargaon village in Shirur Range, Maharashtra, were rescued and reunited with their mother in November 2019.

In 2021 India had 12,852 leopards as compared to the 2014 estimate of 7,910. As per the “Status of leopards, co-predators, and mega-herbivores in India – 2018” of the 1,690 leopards in Maharashtra, only 600 (35%) were recorded in protected areas. In other words, 65% lived outside wild life parks – no wonder they are found in sugar cane fields.

In 2021 BWC got to know of the Titli Trust (NGO of Meghalaya) that had managed to solve the leopard vs man problem to a great extent by focusing on people instead of leopards. Given the fact that by removing one leopard the problem is not solved, another takes it place, village folk from adjoining forest areas were informed of and taught the importance of minimising the chances of a leopard encounter or attack by taking certain precautions like leaving a light on at night, children not going out alone at night, safeguarding their pets, and so on, and if in case they did see a leopard to give way to it and move away calmly. In addition, they were informed of the importance of keeping their surroundings clean and clear so that leopards were not attracted to bushes and overgrowth, garbage and litter. Best of all a children’s ambassador programme were launched wherein school kids performed plays, dressed as leopards, for their parents who together with them got to know what should be done in case a leopard is found it their vicinity. Interestingly, during the 4 years before the programme started in 2017, there were as many as 45 human leopard conflict cases that included 10 human deaths in Tehri, but during the 4 years after, the number of cases dropped to 14 with only 4 human deaths.


Census with Live Bait


In 2000, BWC had got to know that a lion census was planned at the Gir National Park and that live bait (calves) would be utilised. Despite the Gujarat Chief Minister’s office assuring us that live baits would not be used, we received a contrary reply from the State Forest Department official who later in person justified the use of live bait on the grounds that they were going to use “only” male buffalo calves which are “uneconomical” and “useless” which even otherwise are not allowed to survive at dairies. However, as it so happened, the census was cancelled due to early, heavy rainfall! Since then, we are told, the direct sighting method is being utilised for the census.

Since 2014 Poonam Avlokan (full moon observation) is a census exercise carried out every full moon in Gujarat when about 2,000 people spend 24 hours assessing the number of lions and their locations. The Forest Department invites NGOs, experts & wildlife enthusiasts to join in this census for transparency and augmenting manpower. However, due to the COVID-19 lockdown from March 2020 onwards Gujarat’s lion population was estimated without holding the Poonam Avlokan with 2,000 persons. Observation was undertaken only by the forest staff and instead of remaining stationery at water points they kept moving to track sightings.


Lion shows featuring Live Bait


Although it was, we believe, stopped for some years, buffalo calves were again used as live bait in 2008 to attract lions for tourists at Gir sanctuary. The Chief Minister of Gujarat was informed of our suspicion that the Forest Department was hand-in-glove with the villagers/farmers who supply and tie down calves and buffalos as live bait for the Gir lions in order to attract tourists and also cheat the State Government by claiming compensation for their “lost” or killed cattle.

“Lion Shows” as they were called, were terribly gruesome: a buffalo/cow calf was tied to one end of a long rope, whereas the other end of the rope was attached to a tractor. As soon as a lion approached the calf, the tractor drove down the hillock (on which the tractor and calf waited) dragging the calf thus making the lion, along with other lions, chase it. The rope was then cut off and the lions attacked, killed and ate the poor traumatised calf while tourists watched. No photography was allowed – we know the reason was not because it disturbed the lions as stated by those responsible.

BWC’s complaint to the Chief Minister led to the Gujarat State Government promptly investigating the matter, as a result of which the Forest Department claimed that the shows with live baits were outside the protected areas! So BWC again wrote to Chief Minister and others pointing out that it matters little whether the live bait is laid inside or outside the sanctuary limits because the fact remains that it is illegal and the Forest Department of Gujarat State are accountable. The end result was that the State’s Forest Minister declared that two forest officials had been asked to keep a vigil on the activities.

Once again in March 2012, BWC got to know that old, weak or unwanted cattle (buffaloes, bulls, cows and male calves) were tied in farmlands adjacent to the sanctuary thus enticing the Gir lions to come and kill them after sundown. Such kills and feasting was often witnessed by tourists for a price. And, the farm owner could claim and get compensation for his killed cattle. In response to BWC’s request we hope the Gujarat government’s Forest Department will quickly wake up to the illegality of the situation and take stern steps to halt it before it is too late because the lions have already begun attacking Maldharis (people who rear cattle) when they take their animals to graze.

In the beginning of 2019 BWC got to know cattle and calves were again being illegally fed to lions in order to attract them for tourists to view. BWC therefore wrote to the State Government of Gujarat. Also the cruelty was covered in Karuna-Mitra editorial of spring 2019. Later during the year, a BWC member visited the area and made extensive inquiries and found out that the cruel practice had been stopped fairly recently on receiving orders to do so.

In November 2021 reacting to a photograph of a lioness being surrounded by many tourist vehicles in Gir sanctuary, two Gujarat High Court Justices opined that lions should live in peace. When the Government lawyer tried to defend the concept of safari by submitting that those lions which lose the ability to hunt were kept there, the judges said “Put them back into the forest. Why do you need the safari at all?” Moreover, the Government was asked to immediately come out with a plan to regulate tourist activities in the area.


Live bait for an old ailing Tigress


In September 2010 it was learnt that a poor calf was being regularly tied to a tree just outside Ranthambore National Park’s Lakarda outpost as “live” dinner for an old ailing tigress. It is unfortunate that India’s affections lie with tigers and not calves.


Illegal and Inhumane


In September 2020 a young female leopard that had been creating panic among the people of Vijayanagara Kod in Udupi District of Karnataka was trapped using a dog as live bait. Ten years earlier in June 2011, the Karnataka forest personnel had also trapped a leopard by using a live dog. (One can’t be sure if they used a dog in-between too.) BWC fails to understand why live bait was used. Once again, in 2011 we had asked the Ministry of Environment & Forests to send a circular to all Chief Wildlife Wardens informing them that using live animals to trap wildlife is inhumane and should never be practiced, since it attracts the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

In July 2013 the Forest Department and Fire Service used live bait to trap a leopard in the Nilgiri Hills by lowering an iron cage with a live chicken as bait into a well in which a leopard had fallen. It is unfortunate that people do not think a chicken’s life is as important as a leopard’s.

According to a Junnar forest official between 2018 and 2021 at least 13 leopards had died by falling into wells presumably chasing prey at night. Although some leopards have been rescued from the wells in which they have fallen, BWC wonders if chickens are being used to lure leopards in such a manner that they land up inside the wells. Moreover, in view of the number of animals lost, BWC has suggested to the forest department to cover all open wells in the area to ensure that no wild animal falls inside.

In November 2014, at Khilavad village of Una taluka in Gir-Somnath, an old lion was caught in a trap laid with bait for a leopard. This reinforces BWC’s stand that wild life need never be trapped. It is high time that the Forest Department understands it is very cruel and stops the practice.

For years the newspapers reported that cages to catch wildlife like leopards in different states had been placed but not one of them said that live bait was involved. This was because the forest departments know it arouses objection from animal rights activists. However, in November 2018 it was stated clearly in the newspapers that since goats that were being used as bait by the Forest Department in Gujarat had failed to capture a leopard, three forest officials themselves spent a few hours in a cage (used for their own protection, ready to tranquilise and capture the leopard) while a goat was tied in the open nearby. In addition they had a machine which played the bleating of a goat in order to attract the leopard. BWC feels it is cruel beyond words for the poor goat that was tied as live bait. A live animal should never be used to trap another.

In February 2019 a newspaper also reported that the Forest Department had used a live goat as bait in one of the three cages they set up to lure a leopard on the prowl on the grounds of the National Defence Academy at Pune.

In October 2021 at Igatpuri (Maharashtra) a 2 month old puppy was put into a cage as live bait to trap a leopard. It was traumatised inside the camouflaged cage for over 2 days without food or water when animal activists rescued it and released it back from where it had been picked up. (BWC condemns the use to live bait being used to lure leopard whether a dog, goat, chicken or any other animal.)

Earlier in February 2020 a BWC member asked the Government of Maharashtra under RTI how leopards were trapped but received no clear reply from all the departments concerned – the query kept getting forwarded within the Forest Department as no one wanted to reply. This proves that regularly live bait is being used and they know it is illegal to do so. Interestingly, a news item which appeared in August 2020 stated that between 2017 and 2020 at least 6 leopards had been trapped from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and released in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Trap cages set up contained live bait such as chickens.


In April 2020 BWC wrote to the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (Govt of India) about this practice going on all over the country, a photograph was attached, and it was pointed out that it was illegal under the WL (P) Act 1972 and the PCA Act 1960 and requested the Secretary to send a circular to all Chief Wildlife Wardens.

Then in June 2020 an online RTI was filed by BWC with the following questions:
1. On what grounds is it decided that particular leopards, tigers lions or other big cats should be captured?
2. What is the exact procedure of setting up a cage to capture them?
3. How many leopards, tigers, lions and other big cats have been captured in cages, in which places and when during the last 5 years?
4. How many leopards, tigers, lions and other big cats were captured in cages, where and when using dogs or goats or calves as live bait?
5. How many such dogs, goats and calves were killed by the leopards, tigers, lions and other big cats entering the cage, where and when?

The reply from the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change said that the “Information sought is not available in material form. However, the same may be collected from the concerned State Chief Wildlife Warden.” Accordingly BWC sent emails to all CWWs of all states.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Maharashtra state replied to the information sought:
1. As per section 11 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Chief Wildlife Warden may, if he is satisfied that any wild animals specified in Schedule I (including Tiger & Leopard) has become dangerous to human life or is so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery, by order in writing and stating the reasons thereof, permit any person to hunt such animals or cause such animal to be hunted.
As per section 12 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Chief Wildlife Warden, to grant permit, by an order in writing stating the reasons thereof, to any person, on payment of such fee as may be prescribed, which shall entitle the holder of such permit to hunt, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, any wild animal specified I such permit, for the purpose of, -
(a) education; (b) scientific research; (bb) scientific management;
Expl.:- for the purposes of Cl.(bb) the expression “scientific management” means – (b) translocation of ay wild animal to an alterative suitable habitat; or (ii) population management of wildlife, without killing or poisoning or destroying any wild animals.
I Collection of specimens
(i) for recognized zoos subject to the permission under section 38-1 or
(ii) for museums and similar institutions;
Provided that o such permit shall be granted:
(a) in respect of any wild animal specified in Sch. I except with the previous permission of the Central Government, and
(b) in respect of ay other wild animal, except with the previous permission of the State Government.
And also, wild animals can be hunt/captured for rescue and for treatment.
2. A Standard Operating Procedure has been issued by the NTCA for the tiger by the MOEF, GoI for the leopard, which is available in the official website.
3. 4. & 5. Information is not available in the office. Asked to the concerned Division office.

The Dibrugarh Division, Assam’s Asstt Conservator of Forests (HQ) replied as follows:
1. Sometimes, the big cats particularly Leopards, Tigers etc. (Lions are not found in the Reserve Forests under Dibrugarh Forest Division) come out of Reserve Forests and kill domestic cattles including human being. Such animals are captured and released in their other natural habitat.
2. Whenever any information received from the public about killing domestic cattles/human being by leopard and other wild animals, then a cage is placed in that area to capture the animal.
3. Altogether 58 (Fifty eight) Nos. Leopards/Black Panthers have been captured in different locations (Tea Gardens, Homestead, etc.) in the last five years under Dibrugarh Forest Division.
4. 14 (Fourteen) Nos. Leopards captured in Cage by using Dogs as bait and the remaining 44 (Forty four) Nos. Leopards/Black Panthers have been captured in Cage by using Goats as bait.
5. No Goats/Dogs have been killed by Leopard/Black Panther using as bait while entering in the Cage.


The Golaghat Division, Assam replied as follows:
1. & 2. No answer given.
3. Leopard captured data during last 5 years under Golaghat Division are furnished. (The list stated dates of capture and place for as many as 40 leopards.)
4. Leopards are captured using live goat as bait kept in separate bait cage for each case.
5. No such goat killed by leopard kept as bait in bait cage separately.

The Kamrup Division, Assam replied as follows:
1. & 2. Since North Kamrup Division, Rangia is a Territorial Division the details as sought for may be collected from the Wildlife wing of the department.
3. In 2019 on date 06.07.2019, 1 (one) leopard was captured at IIT campus, Uttar Guwahati under Sila Range and transferred to Assam State Zoo, Guwahati.
4. The above one leopard was captured using goat as bait.
5. The goat used as bait could not be killed by the leopard.

However, replies received from 14 other divisions in Assam and one from Manipur stated no trapping had occurred.


A similar reply was received from the Nalanda Forest Division, the Gaya Forest Division, the Mithila Forest Division (Darbhanga & Madhubani) and the Munger Forest Division in Bihar.

However, the reply from Tirhut Forest Division, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, stated:
1. When animal is considered to be dangerous to mankind.
2. Nothing special. The cage is kept in affected area.
3. 4. & 5. Nil.
Whereas the Rohtas Forest Division, Sasaram replied:
1. The decision is taken by Chief Wildlife Warden, Bihar Patna based on the guidelines issued by NTCA & Govt of India from time to time.
2. As per extant guidelines of NTCA already in public domain.
3. 4. & 5. Nil.


The reply from Chandigarh stated:
1. To avoid man animal conflict
2. We set up cage after finding the movement r location of the animal by following guidelines as prescribed by Govt of India.
3. No animal has been captured by the cage. One leopard was rescued by tranquilizer gun from Sector-5 Chandigarh on 30.03.2020.
4. & 5. Nil

From J&K Kathua division replied:
1. First of all we fixed the cage in the particular area after that we put some meat and when they come inside the cage, then we tranquilizing the leopard.
2. Seeing the right place when we fixed it.
3. Nil.
4. One leopard is caught from Ramkot on dated 10.12.19 and then release in Manda Zoo Jammu.
5. No dogs, goats and calves were killed by the leopards, tigers, lions and other big cats on entering the cage.

From J&K Chenab Division Kishtwar replied:
1. When they become dangerous to life or are so disabled/diseased beyond recovery.
2. Once a sit has been identified, there is still the delicate process of actual setting of the trap. This involves blocking off potential routes around the trap, decorating the trap with vegetation to make it look slightly less alien, & setting up a pathway through the trap to ensure that any leopard venturing inside will definitely trigger the trap. Wild animal trap cage is made from light weight but sturdy material for rugged construction and easy transportation. The wild animal allured by a prey kept in a chamber connected to the cage and when the leopard approaches the prey, a mechanical trapping system gets activated to slide down the rear door to trap the leopard.
3. The years (between 2015-20) and places where 15 leopards were captured in cages stated.
4. The years (between 2015-20) and places where 7 leopards were captured using dogs in cages stated.
5. Nil.

The Shopian Wildlife Division answered:
1. The wild animals involved in Man Wildlife Conflict incidents are captured only when they come down to the human inhabited areas (villages). All such captures are effected under the provisions of section
11 (1) (ac) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 when it is perceived that the animal has become dangerous to human life.
2. The procedure for capturing the problem animas in followed in a manner that minimum trauma is caused to the animal. Specialized automatic capture and transport cages have been designed to capture the leopards involved in Human-Widlife Conflict. The cages are installed in problem areas usually close to crop fields and orchards during any eventuality.
3. From 2015 to 2020 at Shopian 17 leopards, and at Pulwama 20 leopards, were captured.
4. No live baits are used.
5. N.A.

The office of the Wildlife Warden Jammu replied:
1. When they become dangerous to human life/repeatedly entering human habitation.
2. By placing appropriate cages with suitable bait in separate cage is placed near frequently reported/sighted locations for several days under periodic inspection by wildlife team by taking proper care of bait.
3 & 4. The years (between 2015-20) and places where 10 leopards were captured in cages stated.
5. Nil.

But the Rajouri-Poonch Division stated NIL to questions 3, 4 & 5.

The Rajasthan Forest Department wrote they were forwarding our queries to various departments under them and would send us the replies when received.


The CWW, Mizoram replied that as per verbal information a clouded leopard had been captured under the Darlawn Division and sent to Aizawl Zoo after which it was released in Dampa Tiger Reserve. Payment of Compensation Claims statements for the last 5 years was also sent although not asked for.


Meghalaya asked BWC to file a RTI directly.

The reply from the government of West Bengal, Director of forest, Office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife & Chief Wildlife Warden replied:
1. As per Section 11(a) of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
2. It is decided by trained field staff and qualified persons based on guideline for the same.
3. Data not available.
4. Data not available. No live bait is used.
5. None.


Live bait in Zoos


Some zoos are known to keep rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, etc. in cages marked “food for pythons” and so on. The poor creatures are regularly released into the cages of reptiles and carnivores and left to tremble in fear not knowing when they’ll be attacked and killed. (Only when hungry do animals kill.) This is another form of live bait.

Unfortunately forest department personnel have often put forward the unethical and impractical suggestion to offer live bait to big cats in zoos so that they learn to hunt and can later be released in the wild.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) panel was in September 2011 standardising guidelines about what to do with orphaned tiger cubs in captivity. Meanwhile the Maharashtra Forest Department was toying with the idea of releasing three cubs which had been rescued from near Gondpipri village in Chandrapur district two years ago and kept in an enclosure at the Bor sanctuary in Wardha district, to the wild. The cubs were being trained to hunt with permission from NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII). Training involved releasing deer in their enclosure – it was reported that the tigers “brought them down successfully” – in other words it was “canned” hunting for the tigers and a terrifying experience for the deer which ironically is also protected wild life.

This was being done despite such experiments having failed in other countries where the animals have not been able to survive the rigours of forest life and come in conflict with humans. A female cub released in the Panna reserve required a super-infrastructure to keep tracking her. Earlier, two leopards raised by the royal family of Mysore released into the wild, killed two humans as a result of which the animals had to be caged again.

To sum up, when a wild animal kills in nature, the prey has a fair chance of survival by fleeing as fast as it can. But, when the prey is put down as live bait, it is downright cruel and unethical.

Page last updated on 04/12/21