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Deaths mark wildlife week

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Siliguri
  • Published 12.11.08
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Siliguri, Nov. 12: The state wildlife week this year turned out to be “ominous” for the forest department as five animals died in north Bengal in the past seven days.

The deaths of three elephants, a leopard cat and a barking deer came as a blow to the department that was busy imparting awareness on wildlife protection and conservation under the leadership of Bengal forest minister Ananta Roy.

A human fatality was also reported during the week. A girl was trampled to death by an elephant in Rajganj block of Jalpaiguri on November 9.

The last animal to die was a barking deer, which reached Mallaguri near the Siliguri Tea Auction Centre yesterday. It had crossed the fringes of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary before suffering injuries in chest and leg.

“We rushed to the spot and brought it to the rescue centre in Sukna. Vets were called in and they examined and treated it,” said Kanchan Banerjee, the range officer of the wildlife squad in Sukna.

“When the deer came out of the forest and trudged through the tea estates to reach Siliguri, it was chased by dogs and people,” he said.

The deer died last night and a post-mortem carried out on it suggested that the animal had died of a heart blockage. The body was cremated at Sukna.

“It was unfortunate to witness five animal deaths in a span of seven days when Wildlife Week was being celebrated,” said the forest minister.

“While the barking deer and the leopard cat died after they had apparently met with accidents, different ailments seemed to have snuffed out the three elephants. We have already started investigating why the elephants are falling prey to diseases,” said Roy.

The deaths have prompted environmentalists of the region to raise the alarm.

“Over years, we have been insisting on growing plants which could be fodder for herbivores. We also told authorities to increase the forest cover. Consumption of fodder in villages and tea gardens, where pesticides and fertilisers are often spread, might be the one reason of the animals being struck with diseases,” said Sujit Das, the secretary of the Odlabari Nature and Adventure Society.

He also said an investigation was needed to find out why wild elephant had different ailments. Two jumbo calves died in the past four months after being rescued.

S.B. Patel, the chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal, said his department was trying to diagnose the causes of frequent animals deaths.

“We are also worried about the wild animals succumbing to accidents or diseases. A two-fold strategy is being adopted to tackle the problem,” the officer said.

“On one hand, we are conducting regular campaigns in fringe villages, making people aware of the steps needed to avert the animal deaths. On the other, we are carrying out investigations to diagnose the diseases the elephants are affected with,” said Patel.

Animesh Bose, a Siliguri-based environmentalist, sought people’s participation in wildlife conservation.

“The forest department alone cannot curb such deaths. Instead, a concerted effort with the involvement of people, wildlife NGOs and students is necessary to preserve wildlife. This can be in various forms like wildlife conservation, conducting surveys or studies on and holding camps in remote areas,” he said.

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