How does a tiger turn into a man-eater? Is it as simple as losing the fear of humans? This is the story of Ranthambore’s man-eater, Ustad.
Somewhere in Udaipur Zoo, in a location closed to public, resides a tiger. His growls cannot be heard in the jungles of Ranthambore anymore. His ramblings through the forest have ended. We are talking about Ustad aka T24, a 9-year-old male tiger.
According to reports
Reports suggest Ustad may be behind the deaths of two forest guards – one, early this year, and yet another back in 2012. There are reported to be more incidents involving a couple more deaths. Ustad was eventually captured and shipped off to Udaipur Zoo – reportedly, on 16 May – from Ranthambore National Park, a week after another forest guard, his fourth victim, was found mauled in his territory.
This is still an ongoing debate though; some feel he may be responsible for just one death while others argue he may be behind all four.
For now, one can only surmise that may be he lost his fear of those bipeds who regularly moved in and out of his territory. Was it that he found humans easy to hunt or did he just hunt those who strayed into his territory?
Ustad has what you might call a good bloodline. He is the grandson of Machli, Ranthambore’s oldest and most famous tigress. He was born to Gayatri (T22) in a litter of three, and was sired by Jhumroo (T20), Machli’s son.
Ustad also sired three cubs with Noor, two of which are still with their mother.
Ustad became the master of his territory extending across Zones 1, 2 and 6 of Ranthambore National Park (a male tiger usually has a territory spanning anywhere between 18sqkm to 95sqkms, depending on the prey available). It is said his area covered the main road – which residents from the nearby village crossed regularly to access the temple – and part of the fort inside the jungle. This main road is where he was spotted many a times, too.
When it all started
About five years ago in 2010, the first tiger attacked was reported. A villager was found dead inside Ustad’s territory, his body partly eaten. The forest guards tracked him and kept an eye out for unusual behaviour but saw none.
In early 2012, a second local was found dead, with tiger claw marks on him. Even then there was no direct evidence that this could be Ustad, so the forest guards continued their vigil. Almost a year and a half later, in late 2013, another forest guard was found dead. But this time video evidence allegedly showed Ustad sitting near the body.
Concrete evidence reportedly came early this year, when in May he attacked another forest guard on foot patrol, right on the main road. An oncoming vehicle with some forest officials spotted him as he was apparently attacking the guard. The rushed at him with the jeep and forced him to release the forest guard in his grip. The guard, was rushed to the local hospital, but died of injuries. Ustad was reportedly caught on video sniffing around the area for his ‘kill,’ making some arguments stronger that he may, in fact, have been behind this incident.
And that sadly is the saga of Ustad, the tiger whose rein had turned into terror and who now has to spend his time away from a place that was once his home.
The views and opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of Lonely Planet India.