Kaziranga tiger shot dead while feeding on forest dweller
24 Mar 2009, 0242 hrs IST, Naresh Mitra, TNN
GUWAHATI: A tiger, which had sneaked out of Kaziranga National Park and killed two people and injured two others, was shot dead on Monday after hours of panic and chaos in which policemen and forest personnel allegedly fired indiscriminately in panic, hitting one of their own men. It is not yet known who fired the bullet that killed the killer animal.
The shocking incident comes at a time when there is an uproar over 10 tiger deaths in Kaziranga in the last three months. Most conservationists believe they were killed by poachers.
The tiger gunned down on Monday was approaching old age, and in search of easy prey. It entered Sakmuthia village in Nagaon — on the outskirts of Kaziranga — and killed a man on March 19. It was trying to eat him when villagers chased it away. The forest department sent a team to tranquillize and capture the animal. After tracking it for three days, they found it hidden in a bamboo grove in the wee hours of Monday. Realizing it was very aggressive, they sought reinforcements.
But by then, local people had noticed the forest team and surrounded the bamboo grove to avenge the villager’s death. The tiger had been terrorizing them for weeks. By 8.30 am, there were over 1,000 villagers, armed with machetes, knives, rods and shovels, screaming for blood.
Pandemonium followed for the next three hours. The forest guards and veterinarians could only watch as the mob went berserk. In the chaos, they could not get a shot at the tiger to tranquillize it. Police were called in since it was an operation outside the national park. They tried to make way for the forest guards but the villagers refused to budge.
The mob was bent on killing the tiger. One group ignored warnings and entered the grove. One of them, Uttam Bora, attacked it with a machete. The hungry tiger pounced on him, ripped off a chunk of his neck and started feeding on him, as hundreds watched horrified. The gory sight sparked a riot. Police moved in to try and control the situation. Blank shots were fired to disperse the mob, which was preventing forest guards from going anywhere near the animal to tranquillize it. In the melee, a bullet fired by a policeman hit a Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) veterinarian, who was trying to dart the tiger.
About 20 rounds were fired, say witnesses. But it had no effect on the mob. They tried to storm the bamboo grove. The gunshots enraged the tiger and it came out charging. A policeman was mauled severely; claws and canines dug deep holes in his head and neck.