Gosaba (South 24-Parganas) April 24: Three honey-collectors were feared killed by a tiger in the Sunderbans early on Tuesday. If the version of the lone survivor of the attack is correct, this is the first incident in which a Royal Bengal tiger has caused multiple deaths in one strike.
Project Tiger authorities in Canning today sent a team to locate the three honey-hunters who remained untraced. They suspect that the men had strayed into the reserve’s core area, which was out of bounds for fishermen, woodcutters and honey-collectors.
Prakash Jana, who survived the attack, has been admitted to a hospital here in critical condition. He identified the victims as Manoranjan Mondal, 56, Sukdeb Mondal, 42, and Dharmenjoy Mondal, 44.
Jana, who could hardly speak, managed to convey that he was on a tree when the tiger pounced on his mates. “I got down a while later, seeing the animal disappear. But the tiger dug its claws on by back. I fled and managed to get on to our boat,” he said.
The four of them had entered the forest early this month for their last collection before the honey season ends on May 15. Manoranjan was from Basanti, the others from Gosaba.
Deputy field director of Project Tiger, Sunderbans, Nilanjan Mallick said usually a team of honey-collectors comprises seven members who travel in a small country-made boat. Four of them enter the forest.
Chamta, where the incident took place, is notorious for ferocious tigers. No one was allowed to enter the islands because of the high density of animals till the ban was lifted from three blocks recently.
Normally, honey-collectors are insured before they go to the forest. Earlier, the premium was shared by the collector and the forest department but from this year, the entire amount is being paid by the latter.
If it is established that the four had entered the blocks that were still out of bounds, their families will not get any compensation or the insurance amount, said Mallick. He added that this is the ideal time for collecting honey before the weather worsens from mid-May.