Man-eating wolves terrorize Indian villages
July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 4:22 a.m. EDT (0822 GMT)
From Correspondent Gary Strieker
UTTAR PRADESH, India -- What happened to 10-year-old Manwati sounds like a nightmare.
But the small child has the scars to prove a vicious wolf really did snatch her from her bed and attempt to eat her.
A man says he heard Manwati cry out and hurried to see what was causing the alarm. What he saw was the shadow of a creature dropping the girl and disappearing in the night.
Manwati's mother gives thanks to God for saving her child, but in the next village another mother is grieving.
This woman's 5-year-old daughter was sleeping next to her in bed when she was taken by a wolf and devoured. In a nearby field, a few small bones and a bloody nightdress were all that remained.
Around these villages in the grasslands of Northern India, the wolves are seldom seen, but they hunt small children.
It started last year in a neighboring district, where wolves killed more than 50 children. So far this year, in the villages along the lone river, at least seven small victims have died. Others, like Manwati, have survived the vicious attacks.
Indian gray wolves are an endangered species protected by law. There are probably no more than 2,000 of them in all, fewer than the number of tigers in India.
Experts say man-eating wolves are extremely rare and are found here only because of very unusual conditions.
"The human density in this area is about 800 people per square kilometer. Nowhere else in the world do wolf populations exist in such high human density areas," said Yadvendradev Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India.
Conservationists worry these killings will have a negative impact on efforts to save wolf populations not only in India, but elsewhere. They worry if the man-eating wolves aren't killed soon, the problem could get worse.
Still, some villagers doubt wolves are actually responsible for the killing sprees. They blame hyenas instead.
Game warden Mahendra Singh disputes this theory. "There are eyewitnesses who have seen a child being carried by a wolf and the description of the animal they gave is exactly that of a wolf."
Whether hyena or wolf, villagers fault the government for not doing enough to stop the killings. The government has tried unsuccessfully to trap the wolves, fielding dozens of armed guards who stake out waterholes trying to shoot them.
Wildlife officials say they'll continue killing wolves until the attacks on children stop. If they fail, Singh fears, the people will take the law into their own hands, "and they will start killing each and every wolf."
Until the man-eating wolves can be killed, children in the villages will continue to fear the predators. And every night will bring a new danger.