Increasing tiger attacks trigger panic around Tadoba-Andhari reserve

Fifty-year-old Sonabai Gurnule from Sonapur village was working in a farm with some other villagers when a tiger, hiding in the fully grown paddy crop, pounced on her from behind. Other farmers raised an alarm, forcing the tiger to run into the forest, just 20 metres from the farm, but not before killing Sonabai.

Raibhan Shende (45) from Yenoli (Mal) village, about 3 km from Sonapur, was lucky. "I was in my paddy farm removing the grass when suddenly a tiger attacked me. Luckily, I had a sharp-edged cutter in my hand and I tried to fight the tiger with it. Some villagers working in their farms saw me and raised an alarm, forcing the tiger to run away. However, the tiger managed to injure me badly," Raibhan told The Indian Express, showing his wounds caused by tiger nails.

On Monday, Ramesh Kulmethe from neighbouring Kacchepar village also got mauled by a leopard. He is recovering in a Chandrapur hospital.

Sonabai is among the 20 people who were killed while Raibhan and Ramesh are among the eight lucky survivors residing near the forest around Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) who were attacked by the animals in the past 22 months.

Strikingly, 11 of the 20 deaths have happened in a small belt between Nagbhid and Sindewahi tehsils on the northeastern side of TATR. Here, all affected villages aren't more than 30 km from each other, if connected by a straight line.

The forest officials are equally alarmed. "We have a serious situation on hand," said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest B Majumdar.

"We will have to study the problem more closely. Over the years, population in the surrounding villages has increased manifold. People are venturing out deeper into the forests for tendu, mahua, firewood etc, which brings them into conflict with a sizeable tiger population," Majumdar said.

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