A forest official was killed and three others were injured on Tuesday when they were attacked by a sloth bear near Khapra village in Banaskantha forest range, part of Jessore sloth bear sanctuary in Gujarat. The incident happened when a four-member team ventured into the forest to put out a fire by villagers after sloth bears killed two men since Sunday. According to forest officials, Bhikha Bhagora and Mana Angari, residents of Khapra village, had gone into the forest to graze their goats on Sunday, but did not return till Monday morning. Rama Angari and Kalu Parmar from the same village ventured into the forest to look for Bhagora and Angari. The duo were attacked by sloth bears, but they managed to escape.
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To save themselves, the villagers ignited a fire to scare the bear on Monday evening. However, the fire turned into a blaze and a team of forest officials were sent to put it out. The bear attacked the team, killing forest rounds officer R H Patni. I K Barad, Deputy conservator of the forests, said, “When Angari and Parmar raised an alarm, people rushed to help and took them to Palanpur Civil Hospital on Sunday.
During the forest rounds, we also found the bodies of Bhagora and Angari and sent them for autopsy. Later, on Monday evening, villagers ignited a fire in forest area to scare away the bear. When four of our forest officials went to control the fire, they were also attacked by the sloth bear. Patni was killed in the bear attack.” Other officers — Umarkhan Bloch, Navaji Rabari and Bharat Chaudhari — sustained injuries and were rushed to Palanpur Civil Hospital, where they are undergoing treatment, said Barad.
He added that the wild bear is yet to be identified, but “from its behaviour it seems this was a female who might be protecting her cubs.” Dr S N Patel, Resident Medical Officer, Palanpur Civil Hospital, said, “Parmar’s condition is serious.” The autopsy reports of Bhagora and Angari indicated “several signs of deep bites by a wild animal on their chest and scalp, though the exact cause of death is yet to be known,” said Patel.
Uday Vora, Conservator of Forests in Gandhinagar, said, “It is quite unusual behaviour for a sloth bear. We are also investigating the exact reason for such an attack and have asked the nearby villagers not to venture into the forest area as a precautionary measure.”
According to the last wild animal census conducted in October 2016, the population of bears in Gujarat has increased by 17 percent, from 293 in 2012 to 343.
Banaskantha district has reported the highest growth of 34 percent: In the last four years, 2012-2016, the strength of bears has gone up from 90 to 121 in Banaskantha.