On June 1, a fisherman was mauled while trying to rescue his son from the jaws of a Royal Bengal Tiger that had strayed from the Kultali forests. Tapan, the son, is dead and his father Pashupati Mukherjee is recuperating at the SSKM hospital.
Four cases of tiger straying from the forests have been reported in the past six months, even as a vast number of tiger attacks go unreported.
On March 1, a villager Gayatri Sardar was mauled by a tiger when she went to fishing in the Herobhanga forest of the Sunderbans. On February 17, a pregnant tigress strayed into the Kultali and the forest officials had to rescue it from being beaten to death by the locals. In a related incident, an injured tiger recently strayed into Jharkhali and was later brought to the Alipore zoo after being rescued by the forest officials.
In these two cases, it was opined that the tigers were not physically fit to hunt wild animals. Wildlife experts say that when a predator becomes old or loses strength to hunt in the forests, it comes out of the jungle in search of easy prey, mostly in the adjoining human habitats. Giving another explanation for straying of tigers, wildlife expert Dipak Mitra said, “A particular type of vegetation is found in the wilderness that resembles the paddy crops. During paddy season, the tiger often strays into the paddy crops standing in villages confusing it for the forest growth.”
There is another explanation to it. “A tiger attacks villagers, when they venture into the prohibited area,” said Atanu Raha, Principal Chief Conservator. Tiger experts also point that the Sunderbans villagers fall prey to the big cats as they sneak into the forests for fishing or collecting things like firewood, honey and crabs without taking necessary permits from the forest department.
“Honey season is on and several villagers enter the forests, with or without permits, to collect honey. The recent incident was not a case of a stray tiger, rather here the villagers fell prey to an attack in the jungle itself,” said Col Shakti Banerjee, Honorary Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Leopard carcass found in Dooars
The decaying body of a leopard was found in a canal near the Nimti tea estate in the Dooars in North Bengal. The full-grown female leopard is believed to have strayed from the adjoining Buxa tiger reserve. Tea garden workers spotted the body of the animal in a canal.
According to forest authorities, this is the season when leopards give birth to their young ones. Female leopards often stray into tea gardens, which offer a safe haven for its newborn. The body has been sent to the Rajabhatkhawa Rescue Centre in Alipurduar district.