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Tiger attack in Bhandara?

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2020 01:02 AM IST

Three people were allegedly injured by a tiger, which had moved out of a Bhandara forest near the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border, after more than 2,000 local residents allegedly attacked it with stones. However, the forest department claimed that only one of the three men was mauled by the animal, while the other two were hurt after falling down from their car and “had nothing to do with the tiger”.

Meanwhile, in another incident, a 42-year-old woman Varsha Jibkhate was killed by a tiger in forest areas near Tulana Mendha village in Brahmapuri forest division on Friday, forcing the forest department to constitute teams to try and tranquilise and capture the animal.

In the Bhandara forest case, Vivek Hoshing, deputy conservator of forest, Bhandara, said the tiger retaliated only after the residents got too close to it, and subsequently fled, as seen in a video taken by a villager.

Forest department officials said the same tiger had been spotted a week ago and may have injured a local resident in the vicinity. The department had on January 18 issued an alert for seven villages — Binaki, Supri, Gondekhara, Gondetola, Sihora, Chulhad, and Khapamohadi – asking them to inform the department if the tiger was spotted in the inhabited areas. Last week, the principal chief conservator of forest issued permission to tranquilise and relocate the animal.

According to forest department officials, the incident occurred around 12pm, when locals spotted the tiger sitting in a field along the Tumsar-Bapera Road. “On Saturday, after we were informed of the tiger’s presence, two police personnel and our officials cordoned off the area, where more than 2,000 villagers had gathered,” said Hoshing. “Despite asking the villagers to not go close to the animal, many people approached it [from another side], armed with sticks and stones and wanted a closer view of the big cat. The scared tiger then retaliated. A video taken by villagers clearly shows a large number of people being stopped by us, and other curious villagers getting too close to the animal.”

The video, taken by a local resident who had climbed a tree, was widely shared.

The injured were admitted to a local district hospital. “One person suffered minor injuries owing to the tiger, while two others were injured after falling down from their car, and had nothing to do with the tiger,” said Hoshing.

Range forest officer Govind Luche said the tiger, most likely a male, had dispersed from forest patches within Madhya Pradesh looking for new territory. “The animal mostly moves within forest patches at night, but maybe came this close to the state highway in search of food, leading to panic. Villagers have been asked to not move alone, especially at night, and carry torches,” he said.

Attempts to tranquilise the animal are still on, said Hoshing, adding that it had not been seen in the vicinity so far. “Local villagers constantly spread misinformation about sightings. If only the animal is spotted repeatedly along the forest fringes will we initiate any attempt to trap it,” said Hoshing.

On Friday, the forest department had found a dead blackbuck and a wild boar close to Gondekhara village. “We are not sure, but we believe that the tiger may have made these kills,” said Hoshing.

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