Killing a tiger in self-defense in India

Killing a tiger in self-defense in India is a legal defense to a crime under The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which is designed to protect Indian wildlife (see section 9 of The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and the defense at section 11(2)).

Sumatran tiger
Sumatran tiger - photo by Captain Chickenpants

This sounds perfectly reasonable but actually, is it? Most tigers avoid people. If they do attack, it is probably due to a number of factors beyond the control of the tiger.

---the most obvious is habitat loss. This forces human and tiger together. This happens most frequently in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in India and Bangladesh. Here, apparently, about 5% of the tigers are thought to be man-eaters. This is mainly because this area is shrinking forcing people and tiger together. Global warming is thought to be partially responsible in flooding the delta. Then there is the human population growth in Asia. This is also in the hands of people to correct but out of the control of the tiger.

---reduction in prey. This is due to habitat loss and human intervention.

---the tiger may be desperate for food as it is old or injured. If there was more prey and/or less people in close proximity the tiger wouldn't attack a person.

---if the tiger is protecting young. It could be argued that people should keep clear and if not getting attacked is the person's fault. Also this is a consequence of habitat loss.

There are methods to minimize tiger attacks:

---wearing a mask with a face on the back of the head as tigers don't like to attack from behind.

--- making clay dummies of people that when attacked discharge an electric shock.

--- carrying a club over the right shoulder as tigers usually attack the right nape.

Are these steps being taken? I would doubt it.

What I am saying is this. If people are largely responsible for tiger attacks on themselves, which could be argued is the case, killing a tiger in self-defense in India should not be a legal defense to a crime (of killing specified vulnerable wildlife).

If tigers were wantonly on the rampage killing willy nilly without reason then, yes, killing a tiger in self-defense in India would be perfectly acceptable but this is not the case, no where near the case. Another problem is that it is very easy to claim self-defense. This promotes killing a tiger without due cause.

What then is the answer if we are to be fair on the tiger? There is only one long term proper answer that will work; give the tiger back the habitat and prey needed to survive. That won't happen. In lieu of that set up educational programs to instruct on how to avoid a tiger attack. Make it mandatory to put in place tiger attack prevention schemes. Introduce suitable prey into the remaining tiger habitat. These are some of the things that could be done.

In a court case of 1979 Tilak Bahandur Rai -v- State of Arunachal Pradesh (1979 Cri LJ 1404) the judge heard an appeal of the conviction of Tilak Bahandur Rai for killing a tiger. It was decided that he acted in self defence. Interestingly, the judge said this:

--the nature and ferocity of the animal is relevant in deciding if the person acted in self defense. Comment: this is obviously correct. A tiger has a reputation making people fearful and more likely to attack the tiger. All the more reason to educate and train people as mentioned above.

--"it cannot be said that the accused was committing any offence prior to shooting the tiger that charged at him". What was he doing? It would seem that it is important to be seen to have done all one can to avoid a confrontation with a tiger and I am sure that judges in India will take into account peoples' actions before acting in self-defense to kill or injure a tiger. As I said there are a number of steps that could be taken to avoid an attack. Were they taken? And if not was the act of self defense bona fide? Killing a tiger in self-defense in India must take into account actions before the actual killing, I argue. I am sure that this is the case. But it must also include the long term actions of people generally in narrowing the tiger's habitat. Does not this undermine the defense of killing a tiger in self-defense in India?

Killing a tiger in self-defense in India - Source: (for information about tiger attacks on humans)

Photo: The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is a subspecies of tiger found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra (src: Wikipedia® published under license, see below)

Click on this link to see the Wikipedia® License src: Wikipedia® published under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version, November 2002 Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA - - no other conditions to the license are added.
Killing a tiger in self-defense in India Killing a tiger in self-defense in India Reviewed by Michael Broad on November 17, 2008 Rating: 5


Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. said...
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Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It seems like the problem isn't the law but, a lack of awareness. I think most Indians would take precautions if they knew how. I wouldn't want to tangle with a tiger unnecessarily.

Iconoclazt said...

You obviously know nothing about being attacked by a tiger. Put yield in their shoes before writing something like this. Don't just say "Oh, well I would never be in that situation in the first place." While this may be true, what if it were not? You do not have a gun, you can't run very well, you are too close, and so forth. You can't do anything to keep the tiger away from you. I live in Oklahoma so I don't have to deal with tigers. I just had a dream about being attacked by a tiger that found its way into my house. Please don't delete my comment if it doesn't conform to your liking. But this is the reality. I understand people may try to exploit the killing of tigers in self defense. But they won't be able to inform the police and prove it if they sell the fur. I'm not sure if people do that. But it wouldn't surprise me. The world is messed up. Just put yourself in their shoes. And don't remove this just because you don't like it. Don't be a child. Respect my opinion because I took my time to read your post and generate a response.

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