Tigers and leopards, accorded highest protection under the Wildlife Act, may now be killed with due permission from authorities if they pose a threat to human life or are disabled or diseased beyond recovery.
This is part of new guidelines issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in the wake of increased incidents of man-animal conflicts.
"Tiger as well as leopard are categorised under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, with highest statutory protection against hunting under Section 9 (1) of the said act.
"Hence, such species can be killed if they become dangerous to human life or are so disabled/diseased beyond recovery," the guidelines for declaration of big cats as 'man-eaters' state.
As both tigers and leopards are known to turn into man-eaters, "such confirmed 'man-eaters' should be eliminated as per the statutory provisions provided in Section 11 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972."
The guidelines state that the chief wildlife warden of a state alone has the authority to permit hunting of animals which have become dangerous to human life or disabled or diseased beyond recovery.
As per the statutory requirement, a chief wildlife warden has to give in writing the reasons for permitting elimination before hunting, they say.
According to the NTCA, there are several reasons for a big cat to get habituated as a 'man-eater' including disability due to old age, incapacitation due to serious injury or loss of its canines, among others.
"However, there may be several exceptions, and hence specific reasons have to be ascertained on a case-to-case basis," the NTCA said.
The tiger bearing forests and areas nearby prone to livestock depredation, besides having human settlements along with their rights and concessions in such areas, are generally prone to 'man-eaters', the guidelines state.
Loss of habitat connectivity in close proximity to a tiger source area owing to various land uses also foster straying of tiger near human settlements, eventually ending up as a 'man-eater'.