Island teacher tells of ongoing hunt for man-eating tiger

Rosemary Graham in Ooty.
Rosemary Graham in Ooty.

An island teacher, currently in Ooty, South India, has described how the town is in lock-down after three people were killed by a tiger.

All 45 schools in the area are closed as the hunt continues for the ‘man-eater’, which has already taken the lives of two women and a man in just one week.

Rosemary Graham, from Sheshader, Point, taught on Lewis for 16 years before moving to South India in August to teach violin and piano at Hebron School in Ooty, Tamil Nadu.

She explained: “Schools have been closed and parents told to keep their children indoors. The school is still on holiday at the moment, but staff and their families who are staying here have been told to keep indoors after dusk. The forest guards think the tiger may well come to drink from our swimming pool.”

Due to the close proximity to a wild animal reserve there are occasionally big cat sightings in the town, Rosemary explained. However this time the animal has taken lives.

“The first newspaper reports about this spate of killings came to my notice on Wednesday,” said Rosemary. “On Wednesday evening I got the message the campus was in ‘lock-down mode’ and on Thursday we read that the animal had killed again.”

She continued: “By this time, the animal, which had been reported to be a leopard, was now thought to be a tiger. Any eye witnesses would only have seen the animal from a distance - the forestry guards were going by the size of footprints, or pug marks, at the scene of the killings.”

Local press reports say images of the animal have now been obtained from a camera trap, confirming it is a tiger. Officials say it appears to be old and emaciated with an injury to one leg.

Other reports described armed police and forestry personnel patrolling the area but say even with the use of firecrackers, attempts to flush out the creature have, so far, been unsuccessful.

“There are teams out now using elephants,” explained Rosemary. “The hunters sit high up on the elephants because the tiger will be hiding in long grass, or as with the last killing, hiding amongst tea bushes. This is a tea growing area. Sitting high on an elephant, they can find it easier to spot the tiger.”

The area is popular with tourists, with the Doddabetta Peak nearby. Rosemary said there is already a noticeable decrease in the number of people visiting attractions in the region, and is concerned about the impact it will have on the local tourist trade.

She added: “I rarely go out after dark, but it is a bit scary to know that for any reason, I can’t go out. There are some staff families here, with young children, who will need to be kept under close supervision until the tiger is caught.”