Hunters kill Lalgarh tiger

Group throws arrows & spears

By Anshuman Phadikar and Debraj Mitra
  • Published 14.04.18
The dead tiger being displayed at Baghgora forest on "popular demand" before it was put inside the vehicle and carried away. Picture by Saikat Santra

Lalgarh/Calcutta: The tiger that had strayed into the Lalgarh forest and been captured by hidden cameras on March 2 was killed by a hunting group with spears and arrows on Friday morning.

The failure to capture the big cat in more than 40 days has come as a big embarrassment for the state wildlife department.

Since being clicked on March 2, the Bengal tiger had been roaming a 30sq km swathe of forests stretching across Jhargram, West Midnapore and Bankura districts. From drones to live traps and tranquillising teams, forest officials had tried different techniques to capture the animal but drew a blank.

Around 10am on Friday, the tiger attacked a tribal hunting party that had entered the Baghgora forest despite a ban on hunting. "A spear thrown by us hit the tiger near its shoulder. It came charging and lunged at me," recounted Bablu Hansda, who suffered waist injuries from the attack and was admitted to a Midnapore hospital.

Minutes after the attack, a large group of hunters formed a circle of around half a kilometre in diameter around the tiger, a forest official said.

The hunters started throwing arrows, one of which hit the tiger in its right eye. As the animal slumped, the group narrowed the cordon and kept throwing arrows and spears at the animal. "The tiger died between 11.30am and noon. The hunters kept spearing the animal long after it had died," the official said.

Three forest officials were injured when they tried to dissuade the hunters from attacking the tiger.

The majority of the people living in the villages dotting the forests where the tiger had been roaming for the past one-and-a-half months or so are tribals. The period between March 15 and April 15 is the hunting season for the tribals.

Officials put up pickets at entry points to the forests this year in an attempt to desist villagers from going hunting.

Ravi Kant Sinha, chief wildlife warden of Bengal, refused to admit that the inability to capture the tiger was a failure of the forest department. "Being unable to sensitise the local tribals was a failure. But you cannot predict when an animal will be captured," he said.

The lack of sensitivity was on display when residents of Chandra village, on the fringe of Baghbora forest and around 10km from Lalgarh, dragged the corpse off a van and clicked selfies with them.

The forest department had deployed around 40 men to capture the tiger. The team, led by four experts from the Sunderbans, had laid four traps with live bait.

In the second week of March, two drones were flown over the forests to spot the tiger.

The closest the forest department team came to capturing the animal was on March 30, when it was briefly trapped in a culvert in a West Midnapore forest. The tiger, however, managed to escape through a gap in the net trap.

Forest officials said they would file a complaint soon. "We will also try to identify the attackers and prosecute them on our own," said an official in Calcutta. Killing an endangered animal like tiger can result in three-seven years in jail.

Atanu Raha, former principal chief conservator of forest, said a post-mortem and the viscera test would reveal whether the tiger had been poisoned. "The tiger should have fought till the end. But there are hardly any sign of fight," said Raha.

Brutal end to big cat in Lalgarh

Forest department officials carry the carcass of the tiger that was killed on Friday morning out of a Lalgarh jungle. Pictures by Saikat Santra