The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Royal Bengal widow returns to stalk village

Calcutta, Nov. 19: A tigress has been terrorising people at Bali village on an island in the Sundarbans ever since her mate was shot dead by forest guards last Monday.

Tranquillised and released back into the forest during the encounter with the combined forces of the villagers and the forest guards, the tigress resurfaced last Thursday, roaring around that spot in the Gosaba village where her mate was shot and hiding in the paddy fields that skirt it.

Last Monday, the tigress took shelter in a cow shed even as the tiger hid in the paddy field after villagers gave them a chase.

The tiger pounced on the guards from his hiding as they were trying to get within a 10-metre range, outside which tranquilisers do not work. One of the guards shot him after two of his colleagues were clawed.

The female has killed a cow and a dog during several forays into the village since Thursday.

Today, she reappeared. Villagers suspect she is still hiding in the paddy fields.

Forest guards armed with tranquilliser shots and villagers have thrown a cordon around the area, trying to locate the animal.

Immediately after getting the information about the sneak-in, Atanu Raha, director, Sunderbans Biosphere, sent Gopal Tanti — one of the most experienced forest personnel — with a dart gun and a team of guards.

“We will not take chances. First, our men will try to drive it back to the deep forest. If the efforts are not successful, we will tranquillise it,” said Raha.

“We will surely keep watch so that villagers do not cause harm to it under any provocation because that might make it ferocious and prone to more attack.”

Raha added that a study team would be constituted with officials from the Project Tiger and the forest department to investigate whether the tigress was returning to the village following the same track that the couple had taken last week, and probably several times before that.

Chief wildlife warden G.B. Thapliyal said as this is the mating season, the Royal Bengal tigers often come out of their dens and stray into human habitation to escape other males.

“We have plans to spread a 7-km nylon net around Bali village so that tigers cannot cross the river that runs along and sneak in,” said Thapliyal. The tigers here have been seen to avoid any artificial barrier.

Thapliyal said the attitude of the villagers towards the animal has changed. Earlier, the very poor and innocent villagers were used by poachers to kill stray tigers.

“Now, they inform the tiger project office or forest officials immediately.”

Moreover, several forest guards have been trained to use tranquillisers. Earlier, when a tiger strayed into a village, a lot of time was wasted in the lone man trained in the use of the dart gun reaching the island.

“In most cases now, such shooters are available either in the village or in adjacent islands,” said Thapliyal.

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