NAGPUR: A woman was killed by a tiger at Velgaon near Dahegaon, under the Kuhi forest range in Nagpur division, on Sunday. The victim, Leelabai Dhanraj Shende (35), was a resident of Dahegaon and had gone to collect tendu leaves in nearby Velgaon forest.
The spot where she was mauled falls in compartment no. 458 in Mandhal round, and is 3km away from her house.
The last tiger attack had happened on April 16, 2010, when one Barjabai Bhoge was collecting mahua flowers in the jungle and was killed by a tiger in Ranmangli forest in Bhiwapur range. Although Ranmangli is far from the latest attack site, this hints at the tigers expanding their expand territory.
CR Gajbhiye, chief conservator of forests ( CCF), Nagpur Territorial Circle, said the incident took place at around 6am. “The attack may have occurred since the woman came within critical distance of the tiger,” Gajbhiye said, “We are monitoring the situation and will take all necessary precautions to prevent such incidents.”
With the latest death, the toll due to attack by tigers or leopards has mounted to 22 in a year in the region. In Chandrapur, 17 deaths were reported from January-December 2010. In 2011, this is the fifth death, with two each recorded in January and March 2011.
N Rambabu, conservator for Nagpur division, says Kuhi range is contiguous with Bhiwapur forest encompassing Ranbodi-Rannmangli-Kharangla areas spread across 25 sq km (2,500 hectares). “There are nine tigers in the area, which is too small to accommodate so many tigers. Since the tigers are in search of new areas, it is leading to conflict,” he added.
Last year, a tigress with three cubs and one with two cubs were sighted in Bhiwapur range. There is presence of two male tigers also. Looking into the tiger dynamics, where each animal needs at least 10-15 sq km area, tiger experts fear Bhiwapur-Kuhi is emerging as the new man-animal conflict zone.
According to eyewitness accounts, Leelabai was collecting tendu leaves while her husband Dhanraj had climbed the tree to pluck leaves. After a while, Dhanraj heard his wife screaming ‘tiger, tiger’ in Marathi. “By the time Dhanraj and others rushed to Leelabai’s help, the tiger had already dragged her body 25-30 feet. Dhanraj drove away the tiger by hurling stones,” said RFO ST Londhe.
Rambabu fears the attack may be a case of mistaken identity. The victim must have bent to collect flowers on the ground, which is not advisable. “Our posters to create awareness among villagers suggest no bending or sitting in the forest,” he said.
The victim is survived by two sons and a daughter. Forest officials released Rs 5,000 towards expenses for performing last rites of Leelabai. BJP MLA from Umrer Sudhir Parwe also visited the spot.
The post mortem was performed at Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Nagpur. “We will pay Rs 2 lakh compensation to the kin of the victim after the case is finalized,” said SS Chavan, assistant conservator (ACF).