The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rescuer forced to turn killer

Calcutta, Nov. 11: Forest officials had to turn their guns on one of the two Royal Bengal tigers they had gone to rescue from a village adjoining the Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve when it pounced on them.

This is the first time that a tiger that strayed out of the reserve was killed, not by the villagers but at the hands of its protectors. The other tiger, however, was successfully tranquillised at Bali, in the Gosaba area of the Sundarbans, off the river Bidyadhari last night.

It has been released back into the wild, said chief wildlife warden G.B. Thapliyal.

Forest officials received frantic calls from the villagers last night. Two tigers had swum across the Bidyadhari and sneaked into the village. Once a tiger entered the cottage of Deben Sardar, the residents locked the animal from outside.

The other tiger hid in the paddy fields. The villagers lit torches and beat cymbals and drums as they tried to corner it at one end of the village, another group contacted the forest officials.

The officials first targeted the tiger inside Sardar’s house. They had no difficulty in aiming their darts at the cornered tiger. “It was confined inside the small house and we completed the first phase of the job in little time,” said Thapliyal.

The second phase, however, proved difficult. As forest officials tried to get inside the 10-metre range — necessary for the tranquilliser to take effect — the tiger pounced on them.

In the melee that followed, Gopal Tanti, an experienced tiger tranquilliser, and four villagers were injured.

Another forest guard fired at the tiger. “He had no other alternative,” Thapliyal later said. “But for his timely intervention, many lives would have been lost.”

The injured were admitted to a local hospital. The tiger’s body was sent for post-mortem.

Forest minister Jogesh Barman said Tanti and the other villagers were lucky. “It was sheer providence that they escaped.”

Officials, however, found one positive aspect of the whole episode. “We are happy that villagers living in areas near the tiger reserve have stopped attacking them,” one of the officials said. Previously, the villagers used to hunt down the cornered and frightened tigers first.

“Everything a dead tiger yields — from its toenails to its hide — is very valuable,” said Thapliyal.

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