A pregnant tigress strayed away from her habitat in the Sunderbans, and managed to hog the limelight the entire yesterday. She suffered an extended ordeal for close to 18 hours before she could be taken away on a steamer for treatment and releasing thereafter.
The Times of India brought out an alarming tale of the possibility of the beast’s extinction in India, one of its earliest natural habitats.
The figure doesn’t include Sunderbans populace since it was not available at the time of announcement. A ToI illustration is reproduced below.
Of the 32, 5 each died due to electrocution, lightning strike, and train accident. Since NFR railway tracks run through the dense forests in Dooars, the trains often encounter the pachyderms on the way.
The trains run at high speed giving the animals no chance to escape death. This year has already seen 2 deaths of which one was because of train accident.
Looking at these figures certain things become clear, at least in Bengal. One, poaching of elephants and killing tigers appears to have reduced somewhat. But two, the forest area is constantly dwindling due to human encroachment.
This has meant that while the wild beats may be gradually increasing in number, they are finding it very difficult to live in depleting forests comfortably.
Perhaps this is the reason why we often find marauding elephants in both south and north Bengal straying into human habitation. Does it seem that there’s no solution forthcoming soon? Maybe only experts can tell.
Update, Feb 20, 2008:
All is well that ends well
The release ceremony started after the important attendees reached the venue. They included Kanti Ganguly, the WB minister for Sunderbans, and Atanu Raha, the Chief Forest Conservator.
Of course the media was there in full bloom armed with cameras and other visual aids. For, otherwise all the today’s editions wouldn’t have had those eye-catching images like the one above.
When the gate opened, the tigress leapt so powerfully to the ‘safety’ of the river that it took the breadth away of the assembled people. It looked as if she was pouncing on her prey with all the might.
Women from nearby villages blew conch-shells and ululated to welcome the beast’s release.
After swimming till mid-river, she turned and let go a fulsome roar that silenced everyone.
As one paper reported, “When its echoes faded away, there was only the sound of the jungle breeze. No one stirred on the deck.“