Scots teacher in India lock-down over killer tiger

Rosemary Graham, who is currently working as a teacher in Ooty. Picture: Hemedia
Rosemary Graham, who is currently working as a teacher in Ooty. Picture: Hemedia
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A SCOTS teacher living in India has revealed that her town is currently in lock-down while authorities are hunting for a tiger which has claimed three lives.

Rosemary Graham, from Point in Lewis, moved to the Tamil Nadu town of Ooty in the south of the country last year.

Ooty is the latest location to report a killer tiger in India in recent months, and all 45 schools in the area are closed as the hunt, involving more than 300 forestry and police officers, continues in a bid to trap the animal before it kills for a fourth time.

The animal is already reported to have killed two women and a man in the space of a week.

‘Teams hunting for tiger’

Rosemary, 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.

She said: “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.”

The school is close to a wild animal reserve and there are occasional sightings of big cats, but this one is claiming lives.

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

“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.

“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.”

‘I can’t go out’

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.”

In the Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh, the forestry department is searching for another of the approximately 1,700 wild tigers left in India. This tiger has killed seven people since late December.

And in the Western Ghats mountain range, at least eight people have been attacked by tigers over the past seven weeks, with two of them being eaten.

Wildlife conservationists claim the tiger attacks are actually a sign that India’s conservation efforts are succeeding, with increasing populations requiring more space.

According to a 2011 census, there are about 1,700 tigers left in the wild in India.

It is thought India had 100,000 tigers a century ago but there has been a serious decline in numbers since then. Poaching and shrinking habitats are blamed.