In a tragic incident, a woman forest guard was mauled to death by a tigress in the core area of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Chandrapur district Saturday morning.
According to a press note issued by TATR Field Director Jitendra Ramgaokar, 46-year-old forest guard Swati Dhumane was doing a sign survey under All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) 2022 programme with the assistance of three forest labourers on foot when the tigress, popularly known as Maya (aged about 10 years), attacked and killed Dhumane, around 8 am Saturday morning.
Incidentally, Saturday was the first day of the survey, according to Ramgaokar.
“Dhumane and the three forest labourers started their work around 7 am and had walked about four km from the Kolara gate of TATR, when they spotted the tigress on a road. The tigress, known as Maya, was about 200 metre away from them. They waited for her to leave for about 30 minutes. But as she didn’t move, Dhumane decided to take a detour through the adjoining patch of forest to get past the tigress. It was then that the tigress sensed a movement inside the forest. It followed the four persons and attacked Dhumane who was walking behind the three labourers and dragged her inside,” Ramgaokar said.
Dhumane’s body was later recovered and sent for post-mortem.
According to Deputy Conservator of Forest Nandkishore Kale, Maya was sitting on a tourist road. “There were some tourist vehicles on the other side of the tigress. Dhumane and the three helpers had completed four km of sign survey and wanted to complete five km. So, they thought they should take a route through the forest to circumvent the tigress and move ahead. Generally, on such occasions, it is advisable to return and do the remaining part later when the path is clear,” Kale said, adding, “The three helpers raised an alarm but the bamboo clumps were so thick that they could hardly help Dhumane.”
Ramgaokar has ordered a temporary suspension of the sign survey. Sign survey is a process of jotting down the records of signs that show tiger presence like pugmarks, scat and scratch marks on trees.
Dhumane had joined TATR just a year ago and this was her first wildlife posting, according to Kale.
Leading wildlife activist from Chandrapur and member of State Wildlife Board Bandu Dhotre said, “Tigers, particularly those in the tourist zones, are not known to attack humans. Tourists make a beeline and move too close to tigers but never does the tiger attack them. Maya’s attack on the forest guard is, thus, very shocking to say the least.”
Tiger attacks on forest staffers are very rare. Earlier, in 2012, a forest guard was killed by a tiger near a water hole. In 2017, a forest labourer was killed in TATR.
A senior official said, “This was the third human kill by Maya. Earlier, she had killed a forest labourer in May 2017 and a woman in December 2020. Clearly, she is a tigress to observe caution about while venturing anywhere close to her.”
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