Chennai, Aug. 31: The gaur, popularly known as the Indian bison, may be the largest among India’s wild cattle but happens to be a docile and shy animal that tends to avoid humans.
So Zora Singh Dhillon, a 35-year-old tea estate owner in Coonoor near Ooty, was extremely unlucky to be gored to death yesterday morning.
He was apparently on his early morning jog when the agitated gaur rushed out of the bushes near Sim’s Park, a garden in Coonoor town, 530km from here. A startled Dhillon began running but the animal chased him and attacked him from behind, its thick horn piercing his back.
It was nearly 30 minutes before his near-lifeless body was discovered by forest officials and taken to hospital, where he was declared dead. Dhillon, a bachelor, was the owner of Nihung Tea Estate in Kothagiri, 20km from his home in Coonoor.
“It is very unfortunate. The last time a gaur killed someone in this district was seven years ago when a tea worker was trampled to death,” said Coonoor deputy superintendent of police M. Madasamy.
The police suspect that a group of boys may have chased the gaur for fun, causing it to panic.
“Gaur attacks are very rare since they are docile and steer clear of humans despite their huge size and strong horns,” district forest officer Anurag Mishra said.
Dhillon lived alone. His closest relatives will be arriving from Canada for the final rites.
Sim’s Park is the second largest botanical garden in the district, after the one at Ooty, and is a must-see tourist spot. Coonoor and its tea estates in the Nilgiris district have been a favoured location for film shoots, especially since the Sanjay Dutt-starrer Saajan was shot extensively here.
Coonoor, home to the Madras Regimental Centre of the army, is also a preferred retirement spot for top army officers. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw lived here till his death in 2008.
Animal-man conflicts in the district have mostly been about humans being trampled by elephants as illegally built wildlife tourist lodges encroach on elephant corridors.
“Expanding tea gardens and the consequent increase in human settlement, and a corrupt administration winking at illegal constructions, have resulted in elephants being pushed out of their rightful territory,” said G. Rajendran, a lawyer who has approached the Supreme Court to rid the elephant corridors of encroachments.
“So when a herd gets lost looking for a waterhole or a feeding area, it stays for days amid human habitation.”
People have sought to protect their land by erecting illegal electrified fences, which have electrocuted at least a dozen elephants. More than 30 elephants died of electrocution in the past two years in the Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring Mysore district of Karnataka, said B.K. Kumaran, president of the Nilgiris Ecology and Animals Protection Samithi.