ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dog Bites Tiger

The basic premise of conservation practice is to keep the wild and the domestic apart, or at least tightly monitored.

On 10 September, an unusual scene played out at the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. In this most dramatic of tiger reserves – which lost all its tigers to poaching in 2009, and has slowly been repopulated by reintroducing India’s national animal – a tiger was attacked. Not by a fearsome natural enemy, but by a domestic dog, shorn of any fear because it was infected with rabies. It is reported that the puzzled tiger swatted the dog after being bitten, knocking it unconscious. But the tiger itself had to be captured by the forest department, put in an enclosure and administered with anti-rabies treatment, and now faces an uncertain future. What appears to be a freak and somewhat droll event is actually conservation biology’s worst nightmare, and highlights the failure of small but important interventions in keeping the wild, wild.

Conservation biology dictates keeping wild and domestic animal populations separate. In popular culture, the borders between the familiar and the wild have always been strongly and dramatically etched. In a simplistic fashion, the idea is that the charismatic and fierce wild animal – such as the tiger – belongs in wild natural spaces, while the familiar, large-eyed, cooperative domestic animal – like the dog or cow – belongs with us, near our homes and hearths.

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