Monday, 30th October 2017

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Lost eye of the tigress

Broken jaw, poor sight

By Debraj MItra in Calcutta
  • Published 24.08.18
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The tigress at a Jharkhali rescue centre in the Sunderbans. The left eye has turned opaque because of cataract, while the other eye (below) is unaffected. Picture courtesy: Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

Calcutta: An old tigress with a damaged jaw and little sight in her left eye because of cataract has been captured near a village in the Sunderbans and sent to a rescue centre nearby.

"Had the tigress not been captured, it could have strayed into human habitats for easy prey," said Nilanjan Mallick, field director of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

Injuries suffered in fights with other tigers and ailments such as a damaged tooth or jaw are among the reasons why some Sunderbans big cats lose their power to hunt in the wild and become man-eaters.

The tigress, which forest department officials say is at least 12 years old, was first spotted by guards on August 12 near a nylon net fencing at Jhilla forest in the Basirhat range of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.

The core forest area is surrounded by nylon nets to prevent the big cats from straying into villages.

"The tigress looked ailing from a distance but we don't immediately interfere in such cases. We decided to wait and watch," an official said.

The tigress was spotted again on August 14, this time outside the fence. Officials suspect the animal had made its way out of the jungle through a hole in a net.

The tigress was the captured with a trap. "We could not afford to wait any longer because it could have crossed the Jhilla river and entered villages," the official said.

A closer look by a vet revealed that the entire left eye had turned opaque because of cataract. "The lower canines were damaged because of age-related erosion," the official said.

The tigress, which looked dehydrated and hungry, was given water and goat meat before being shifted to a rescue centre in Jharkhali. "It's in a good mood now, enjoying a stress-free retired life with all the perks," the official said.