Tiger stalking Sunderbans villagers
1 Sep 2008, 0414 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra & Monostosh Chakraborty,TNN
GOSABA (SUNDERBANS): For the last three days, residents of Annpur village in Gosaba have been stalked by a tiger every evening. The animal, a suspected man-eater, has already claimed a cow and four goats.
The tiger sneaks in after crossing river Gomo from the Datta forest every day. Several people had a narrow escape trying to drive it away on Friday evening, when it was last spotted.
The forest department has stepped up vigil along the banks to prevent the tiger from sneaking in. Lights have been put up and villagers are keeping a night-long watch.
But despite the watch, the tiger swam across the river and returned on Friday to the spot where it had killed a cow the previous night. Failing to find its kill, it went around at least a dozen houses, looking for cattle. It went back only after claiming four goats from two houses.
“It was a nightmare. We had been keeping a watch when we suddenly spotted the animal barely 40 yards from us. Fortunately, it changed its path, but went deeper into the village and started raiding the cattlesheds. We could only keep our doors shut and pray,” said Tapas Mondol, a resident.
Twelve-year-old Ruma Mondol was on her way to school on Friday morning when she bumped into the tiger in a neighbour’s garden. Ruma was about to pluck flowers when she saw the tiger feasting on a cow. As she screamed, the tiger leapt across the garden and jumped into the river.
“It was devouring my cow when Ruma saw the tiger. It had sneaked into my cowshed and dragged the cow out despite there being a mud wall. It is clear that the animal is quite desperate,” said Upananda Mondol. The next day, the tiger returned to kill four goats.
Three trap-cages with baits inside have been placed on the edge of the forest — from where the tiger has been crossing the river into the village. “It has been jumping over the six-foot nylon fence along the forest, which indicates it is an adult and very fit. The way it has been returning to the village is alarming. We have placed cages and are keeping a vigil,” said Niraj Singhal, director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.
Villagers alleged that the forest department has been slow in reacting to the situation. They were not helping locals keep vigil inside the village, they alleged. “Lights have been installed along the river bank, but the rest of the village remains dark. Without any arms, we have to rely only on our instincts, which could be risky,” said Pankaj Barman, a member of the vigil party.
The forest department, on the other hand, claimed that the animal will soon be caught and released deep inside the forest. “For some reason, it has been straying. But we expect to capture it in a day or two,” added Singhal.