The Tale Of Tara: - Page 1&2: Raising & Release | 3: A Man-Eater In Dudhwa | 4: Tara's Heritage
A spate of rumours:
Singh had wisely realised Tara's association with people could lead to later problems. He also knew that once word got out the tigress was now living independently that a great deal would automatically be blamed on her.
Initial reports claimed that Tara was doing things like preventing workers harvesting sugar cane. She was said to approach them and rest in the cane itself. Other locals accused her of attacking domestic cattle. These were both proven incorrect.
Did Tara turn man-eater?
Not so easy to overcome were the later claims that Tara had turned man-eater and was responsible for the deaths of 24 people.
The attacks started in Hilly's district, Koery and officials soon started to believe that Tara was the most likely culprit.
Area officials stated that because she'd been raised by, and with, people she did not avoid them as will most tigers. They felt that as Tara associated humans with the provision of food and comfort she would approach villages.
There was also the issue of whether or not she could she hunt enough to feed herself. Though no doubt exists that instinct had developed some of her skills, to what extent she was having success is unknown. Domestic stock presented easier prey -- and so did people.
Singh denied the tigress doing the killing was Tara, but authorities were so convinced they organised a hunt to track her down.
The park director, R.L. Singh, claimed he shot Tara on the 9th November 1981. He then exhibited the mounted tigress in his house. But a committee of Indian tiger specialists studied the tigress and said it was very obviously not Tara.
Singh also took part in a number of hunts, but claims none of the tigers that were shot were his tigress. He produced published photographs of Tara to support his statements that the killers were not her. But the same committee that supported him against the park director said these were "untenable" (unsupportable) evidence.
If the authorities were correct, and they indeed shot Tara, an interesting question is why couldn't the killer tigress be firmly identified? The stripe pattern in young tigers alters with age, but cheek spots and eye spots remain the same and Singh may have hoped the tigress could be eliminated as Tara by comparing photographs to the succession of possible man-eaters which were shot. Pug marks could not be counted unless Tara had an injury or foot abnormality and none is known of.
In numerous blazing arguments officials have stated that Singh simply doesn't want to admit his experiment was such a failure, and it is his emotional attachment to Tara that keeps him denying she was responsible. Singh still firmly states that none of the tigers shot during the man-eating years experienced at Dudhwa were Tara. He is very vocal on this topic.
The case against Tara remains unproven, however we know without a shadow of a doubt that captive-raised carnivores are often a danger to man if they're released back into the wild. An experiment with African lions has shown us this, and that is despite the fact that lions in general do not often seem to turn man-eater.
If we assume Tara wasn't one of the man-eaters, and wasn't shot, then what happened to her? Singh's opinion is that Tara died in 1992; that her body was never recovered and what happened to her remains unknown. By this time she would have been of an age when wild tigers naturally lose their ability to hunt.
There's also an equal possibility she ended her days as the target of a poacher. No one really knows, just as no one knows if Tara really did turn man-eater....or no one who will admit it anyway.
Success or failure?:
Taken purely as an experiment in reintroduction there is no doubt that Tara showed a high element of success. Exactly how much success depends to on which side of the fence the expert in question resides on. Most seem to agree Singh's system probably wouldn't work on any large scale because it's too labour intensive and time-consuming, therefore prohibitively expensive. It also didn't conclusively disprove many of the commonly-raised objections to wild release of tigers, in particular, the issue of them turning man-eater and whether or not they would learn to hunt adequately on their own to prevent this.
With Thanks To Aditya Singh