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Tiger at the door, tiger no more
Posted on November 15, 2010
With fewer than 3200 individuals in the wild, the situation becomes really tense every time a tiger strays into the human locality of the Sundarbans because this results all too often in its death at the hands of the local villagers. And that accounts for one tiger lost.
Just a few weeks ago we lost another tiger though the killing was so covert this time that it escaped the attention of the public as well as the media. We know about this loss through an investigation done by two of our members. This is what their findings reveal -
It was approximately 10:30 pm on the night of the September 4th. The place was Mirgang village in Munshiganj union of Satkhira district. Makhan Mondol, a local villager was preparing to go to bed when he suddenly heard some strange noises coming from the back of his house. His house was among those that are located adjacent to the Sundarbans and separated from the forest only by a narrow canal. He went to check out what it was it and it was then that he spotted the tiger sitting in the goat shed. The bamboo fences were broken. The tiger had already attacked Makhan’s three goats.
The news of the stray tiger quickly spread and neighbours started pouring in. Within half an hour around 60 people had gathered at the spot to take a look at the tiger. It was night, we have to remember.
Hearing the news, members of our Forest Tiger response team Goni, Tanvir, Kawsar, Morol, Shonjit and the local Village Tiger Response teams appeared on the spot and started to hold back the crowd. Soon our response teams were joined by the Forest Department (FD) field staff. They were waiting for the tiger to return to the forest by itself but the creature did not seem to be in a hurry. It shifted its position from the shed to a nearby bush. The crowd was growing with time and the situation was getting serious – the tiger rescuers were holding their breath imagining the worst: that soon the growing crowd would turn on the tiger. At 2 am there were more than 200 people.
The rescuers made an effort to drive the tiger out by using fire crackers but the plan didn’t work out because the escape route was blocked by the huge crowd. Seeing the gathering of this many people the tiger also started to shift from place to place – sometimes taking refuge in the nearby bushes or in the field or on the roof top of Makhan’s house.
And here the crowd was increasing – a mixture of characters, some only enjoying the thrill of seeing the majestic creature with their own eyes, some waiting for the first chance to kill it. It was 3:30 am and there were more than 500 people.
Seeing the aggressive behaviours of some individuals, Goni could not help voicing out his fears to his team leader who was monitoring the situation by phone, “The situation is getting out of control for us. If the tiger does not leave before day-break, I don’t think it will stay alive…”
Goni and the team continued making noises to scare away the tiger and finally (and fortunately) at dawn the tiger returned to the forest. That was the first day. The rescuers thought it was the end, but it was not.
On the night of the 4th September, a Saturday, the Bengal tiger appeared again. Luckily this time everyone was sleeping. It killed a dog and dragged it inside the forest. In the morning of the 5th September our Forest Tiger Response Team discovered its large pugmarks on the bank of the canal and the measurements of the tracks together with the fact that they were in the same area as the previous incident, meant it was likely the same tiger. Based on their witnesses they confirmed that the big tiger was the same as the previous one.
The villagers were furious the next morning – they were threatening our response teams and the FD staff that if the tiger came again into the village, they (villagers) would certainly kill it. That same morning some fishermen from another village called Golakhali, situated 6-8 km away from Morgang, reported sighting of a tiger while they went fishing in one of the nearest creeks. This village is also very close to the Sundarbans. The proximity of this sighting to the first incident suggested that it was the same tiger coming back and forth. However, the reason of its straying out of the forest remained unclear.
The creature continued this coming and going for approximately 10 days during which all members our Forest and Village Tiger Response teams worked relentlessly in the face of severe criticism and personal threats to guard the villagers and save the tiger at the same time. But their efforts only paid off partially, for, though no harm was done to humans, the tiger itself did not survive.
As it turned out a couple of fishermen (names better remain undisclosed) got hold of some poison that did not let out any medicinal smell because they believed that tigers don’t eat meat that gives off unusual odour. They stuffed that poison in the carcass of a goat that the tiger had killed the night before and left it as bait on the edge of the forest.