Two tigresses from Valmiki reserve strike fear in adjoining villages
An uneasy calm prevails at Gaunaha block villages on the fringes of Western Champaran’s Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR), 310 km north of Patna. Reason? Two tigresses along their cub have been on the prowl. The big cats, who frequently venture out of the protected forest zone, have allegedly killed a 30-year-old man and injured two others, and eaten away livestock in the past three months. At least a dozen were lucky to escape tiger attacks unhurt.
According to local forest and administrative officials, villagers have sighted the tigresses at 27 places in the past three months. They have attributed the man-animal conflict to decreasing forest cover, increasing construction activities, a rising number of big cats.
Arbarish Kumar Mall, deputy director VTR (division-one), said two tigresses, named T-3 and T-4, have strayed from the forest area owing to a jump in their population, and to protect their cubs.
“Research shows that tigers often kill cubs that are not closely related to them. To avoid this, tigresses during this time of the year venture out of the forest area,” said Mall.
Manvendra Choudhary, ranger of Goberdhan area, said of the 40 big cats (according to a 2017 census), only T3 and T4 with their cubs are venturing out of VTR. He denied that any tender for construction work has been floated in division-1 of VTR.
Describing it a short-lived problem, the deputy director said four teams each 10 forest officials, were monitoring the situation round the clock.
Villagers, however, are not satisfied with the administrative arrangements. “There is always a lurking fear of tigresses moving into villages, and villagers dare not venture into their fields. We have stopped singing and dancing, our small celebrations are muted,” said Antima Devi, mukhiya of Domath panchayat.
Updesh Sah, another resident of Bherihari village, recalled his family’s recent encounter with tigers. He said he woke up to find two tigers loitering near his house. “I raised alarm which drew the attention of villagers who rushed to our rescue. The tigers retreated after villagers hurled fire crackers, stones and flaming torch at them,” he said.
Areas close to VTR — such as Bairi, Kathha, Mahajigini, Dharmpur, Manguraha, Balwal, Bhikhnathori, Bathniya, Rajpur, Bishnpurwa, Domath, Dumariya, Parsanda, Takaul, Sherwa, Kharatiya, Bhawanipur, Harkatwa, Harpur, and Jamuniya in Narkatiaganj subdivision of West Champaran district — have witnessed the most human-tiger encounters.
“We have stopped venturing out after sunset. We are more vigilant about the movement of our children. You never know when and from where a tigress will attack you,” said another villager.
The latest tiger kill was reported on September 4 when a 30-year-old cattle herder, Vijay Manjhi of Jagarnathpur village, was allegedly eaten up one of the two tigresses. The police found his mortal remains at Sumeshwar hills in VTR and spotted pug marks at the site. The forest department has withheld compensation to the Manjhi’s family pending an enquiry.
Villagers’ anxiety is not limited to only tigers, even other VTR animals such as bison, bears, and leopards too have stalked them.
A man from Naurangiya Don was gored by a bison in VTR during monsoon this year. He later succumbed to his injuries. “According to the rules, an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh was given to the dependent of the family,” said Gaurav Ojha, forest officer of division 2.
On December 3, a leopard injured two villagers at Sirisiya village.
Ojha said encounters with animals occur as villagers have to step into the forest to graze livestock, collect firewood, and water.
“But things are changing as people are more aware of the risk factor,” Ojha said.
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