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Tigress mauled by villagers and caught

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 18.02.08

Calcutta, Feb. 18: A Bengal tigress climbed trees, hid behind barns and bushes and ran across fields to escape armed villagers before being stoned, thrashed and caught in a Sunderbans village this morning.

Five villagers were injured while trying catch the animal.

Ashutosh Dhali, 45, a por-tion of whose right thigh was bitten off, has been admitted to SSKM Hospital in Calcutta, 250km from Deulbari village in Kultali.

The tigress is “under observation” on a launch. It regained consciousness in the evening and had a chicken meal, said conservator of forest Pradip Vyas.

Around 7.30pm yesterday, a woman saw the animal on a paddy field. Villagers armed with sticks gave it a chase after she raised the alarm.

Apparently puzzled, the tigress climbed a banyan tree about 30ft tall.

Villagers spread nylon fishing nets under the tree and waited for it to come down all night. They also called police and forest officials.

A police team arrived around 9.30pm and stayed with the villagers during their vigil.

At the break of dawn, the tigress startled everyone by letting out a growl, jumping from the tree and running towards the village.

Nearly a thousand people chased it with sticks, stones and whatever they could lay their hands on. In its bid to run away from the mob, the animal often ran into villagers and scratched four of them.

“We chased the tigress for about half an hour. In Pratap Naskar’s garden, it was cornered in front of a clump of trees next to a pond. So, it swiftly climbed a young palm tree, about 10 ft tall,” said Dipankar Sardar, a villager.

Ashutosh Dhali lying on the floor at SSKM on Monday evening. (Bishwarup Dutta)

The tigress remained perched on the tree till around 10, when forest officials arrived with tranquilliser guns.

“Some 15 minutes after the tigress took a tranquilliser bullet and appeared to have dozed off, the officials asked us to bring it down,” said Dipankar.

Nalini Naskar and another villager climbed the tree and put a noose around the left hind leg of the groggy tigress.

But as soon as they pulled the rope tight, it woke up and jumped on the thin strip of grass between the pond and the palm tree.

Villagers pelted it with stones and started poking and beating it with bamboo poles.

An end of the rope tied around the leg, the tigress came to the edge of the pond and villagers waiting in the water with a net of thick nylon cords pulled it with all their might.

Growling and groaning in pain, the animal slipped into the water.

Most villagers fled then but Ashutosh, who was in knee-deep water, could not. The tigress pounced on him.

“When it left me, I could see my bones,” said Ashutosh.

Krishnapada Mondal, the beat officer of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, said a second tranquilliser shot was fired while the tiger was trying to come out of the water.

Villagers kept hurling stones at the animal and pricking it with sticks. It fell unconscious a few minutes later.

Forest officials took it away in a launch to Sajnekhali, near the reserve’s core area.

Vet Rabindra Nath Shikari, who examined the tigress tonight, said: “The villagers had tried to scare it by lighting a fire under the banyan tree, which caused burns. Otherwise, the injuries aren’t serious.”