Ajoy Tamang at the Alipurduar subdivisional Hospital. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Alipurduar, June 17: A worker of a garden on the fringes of the Buxa Tiger reserve has claimed that he was mauled not by a leopard but by the striped cat this morning.
Ajoy Tamang said he was snipping away the branches of a shade tree in Chuapara garden when suddenly from behind the tea bushes a flash of yellow and black with large canines gleaming — a tiger or so it seems — attacked him.
Lying all stitched up and bandaged on a bed in the Alipurduar subdivisional hospital here, Tamang said he had a miraculous escape, literally from the jaws of death. He got seven stitches on his head and four on his shoulder.
“I have grown up on the edge of the forest and have seen enough leopards. The beast that attacked me was definitely not one. It had black stripes on its body and was very strong,” Tamang said. The Chuapara Tea Estate, 37km from here, is located on the edge of the Bhutri forest that is part of the Buxa Tiger Reserve.
“It was around 8am and there were 15 of us cutting the branches of shade trees that grow above the bushes when suddenly the animal grabbed my left wrist. I struck at it with the chopper in my hand, but it attacked my shoulder and I kept hitting at it. It then went for my head and I think at that point my machete made a mark on its shoulder and I fell unconscious only to wake up in hospital,” Ajoy said.
A commotion and a growl had prompted other workers to rush to Ajoy’s aid only to find him lying on the ground bleeding with lacerations on his hands, shoulder and head. He was taken to the garden hospital before being shifted.
Rakhal Goala, a garden worker, said he had seen Ajoy shouting and battling a growling beast. “When we ran to his aid, I caught a very brief glimpse of what seemed like a tiger disappearing into the bushes,” he said.
Pankaj Rai, another worker, said this was not the first time that tigers had been spotted in the area. “We had seen a tiger in the vicinity during winter and Ajoy was attacked by one today. We have reported it to the forest department,” Rai said.
Forest department sources said there were at least 12 tigers in Buxa according to the last census conducted in 2008.
“If it was a tiger attack then it is a very rare incident as it is mainly leopards that roam the tea gardens looking for easy prey. However, during the census last year we had seen tiger scat in the Bhutri forest, so their presence cannot be ruled out,” said S.B. Patel, the chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal. He said he would send his staff to the spot to see if there was any pug marks or scat in the area.