Tiger still eluding trap, wild elephants add to panic in Bengal’s Lalgarh
Elephants smashed two of the seven cameras set up to track the tiger.Updated: Mar 05, 2018 12:16 IST
Even as the Royal Bengal Tiger sighted in the former Maoist-dominated area of Lalgarh continued to elude traps, a herd of wild elephants heightened the panic of locals from Sunday, smashing cameras set up to track the big cat. The combination of the two has triggered a situation that, according to villagers, surpassed the panic even at the zenith of Maoist activity between 2008 and 2011, when automatic gunfire between the rebels and the security forces would erupt just about anywhere in this terrain covered with forests and hamlets.
In a sense, the pachyderms are helping the predator by smashing two of the seven cameras installed on February 27. This is the first time a tiger has been sighted in this area.
Forest officers think the tiger could have strayed from Odisha’s Simlipal that is about 190 km away. Villagers complained to the administration that at least five cows belonging to the locals vanished in about seven days prompting the forest department to set up cameras.
“The tiger might have gone to other parts of the forest after sensing the presence of the elephant herd,” said Rabindranath Saha, divisional forest officer (DFO ) of Midnapore on Monday.
The panic has reached an extent where roads are almost deserted during daytime and villagers are picking up weapons and taking neighbours along even to bathe in local ponds.
Road construction work has slowed down at a few places such as the Jhitka forest since workers are not willing to work after sundown.
“You cannot imagine how we are spending our days. Even during the height of Maoist activity, we did not suffer from this level of panic. For almost the entire day, we are staying indoors,” said Manik Mahato, a farmer of Kumarbadh village about 8 km from Lalgarh.
“We don’t know when elephants will attack us, or the tiger will appear. Even going out to respond to nature’s call has become risky,” said Laxmi Mahato of Amalaia, near Madhupur forest.
According to forest department officials about 20 elephants are moving in the area now.
The wild elephants have appeared at a time when forest officials have lost their sleep after the presence of a tiger was first recorded last week in this zone about 150-160 km away from Kolkata. Two baits were placed on March 2.
On Monday morning the forest department dispatched employees to Dherua, about 15 km from Lalgarh, where Sushil Mahato, a villager, said that the tiger attacked a cow in his house. “Our people will try to determine the nature of the predator from thee pugmarks,” said Saha.
The administration has already issued warnings for the locals. “We are issuing advisories over microphone. The people are asked to remain alert and not to go in the forest, “ said Debashis Mahimaprasad Pradhan, DFO of Bankura South division after they got the information that the big cat was sighted at Sarenga, another hotbed of Maoist activity.
“We are at a loss. On the one hand, there is a full grown tiger and on the other, a herd of wild elephants. We did not face such a situation even when the smell of gunpowder pervaded the air in this belt,” said Anil Mahato, who owns a tea stall in Choto Pelia village, one of the former nerve centres of rebel activity in Bengal.