Tiger so near, yet so far

The tiger in Lalgarh came close to the traps set up in Melkhedia forest on Tuesday night but did not enter the cage.

By Anshuman Phadikar AND Debraj Mitra
  • Published 8.03.18
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Leaves set on fire in a Lalgarh forest by villagers to scare away the tiger. Picture by Saikat Santra

Calcutta/Lalgarh: The tiger in Lalgarh came close to the traps set up in Melkhedia forest on Tuesday night but did not enter the cage.

Fresh pug marks were found near both traps early on Wednesday, a senior forest official in Calcutta said.

"We are fairly certain about the location of the tiger. It is just a waiting game now," said Ravi Kant Sinha, the chief wildlife warden of Bengal.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday asked forest officials to ensure that the tiger did not stray into human habitation.

"Do you have any information about the tiger that is reportedly roaming the forests of Midnapore? Have you alerted the common people? Drones could be used to locate the tiger," Banerjee said at an administrative meeting in the Bankura police lines.

The forest department, sources said, has at least three drones - in the Sunderbans, Buxa and Jaldapara. But they are mainly used for vegetation mapping, special habitat mapping and anti-poaching drives.

The tiger has not attacked any livestock for several days and the officials were hoping the live baits inside the traps would lure him.

"It must have killed some prey inside the forest. It could be a hare, a small pig or some other animal. Our men in the forest are yet to come across the carcass of a large animal," the official said. A big kill, like a cow or a large deer, can mean two days of food for the big cat.

The pug marks suggest that the tiger is still near Lalgarh and has not moved away towards Bankura or West Midnapore, neighbouring districts of Jhargram, as claimed by some people living in the border villages.

A new trap was set up in a forest adjoining Melkhedia on Wednesday. A fourth trap has been kept on standby at a forest office in Jhargram town, local forest officials said.

The villagers have been setting dry sal leaves on fire in the forests to drive the tiger away. "Not only will that hamper the search operation, but the tiger can also stray into a locality and attack people. There is also a threat to the animal's life because villagers can beat it to death," said Rabindranath Saha, the divisional forest officer.

The forest department, along with police, are campaigning in villages, asking people not to set the leaves on fire and alert the wildlife department if they spot fire anywhere in the jungle.