Rare tigress escapes village mob hunt

February 20, 2008 9:28:39 AM PST
Forest guards tranquilized and then rescued a pregnant tigress from a date palm tree after it strayed into a village near the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in eastern India, an official said Tuesday. The tigress climbed the tree to escape a group of villagers chasing her and it took nearly 14 hours to tranquilize and catch her Monday, said Kanti Ganguly, Sunderbans affairs minister of West Bengal state.

The tigress suffered minor injuries from stones and burning sticks the frightened villagers threw at her in Deulbari, 150 miles south of Calcutta, Ganguly said.

Guards nursed her wounds and then took her by boat and released her Tuesday deep inside the mangrove reserve, said Atanu Raha, the state's chief conservator of forests.

"Although the tigress received some injuries while being tranquilized and caught, she was treated and found fit to be released in the reserve area," Raha said.

The Sunderbans, about 3,860 square miles of marshlands and mangrove forests along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, is one of the few remaining natural tiger habitats in India.

Tigers have been slowly disappearing from forests and reserves in India due to poaching, tourism and a shortage of properly trained forest guards. Their numbers have dropped from about 3,600 five years ago to about 1,411, the government-run Project Tiger said last week.