Thursday, November 05, 2009

After night at zoo, Gangtok bear goes back to wild

Gangtok, Nov. 5: The Himalayan black bear that mauled two forest officers yesterday was released in the wild after spending a night at a zoo.

The animal had ambled into Setey Bazar near Gangtok early yesterday and was caught after a hide-and-seek played out for over six hours. During the confrontation, two forest officers were clawed while the third was injured when he fell while fleeing and the bear was taken to Himalayan Zoological Park in Bulbuley, 5km from here, after it was darted.

This morning, it was sent to the reserve forest at Kupup close to the Memencho lake, about 70km from here, to be released. Kupup in East Sikkim is close to the Chinese border and Nathu-la. Sources at the Bulbuley zoo said the bear had fully recovered from the effects of the tranquilliser and had been fed meat.

Chief wildlife warden N.T. Bhutia said the animal had started for the wild in a truck at 8am. “The decision (to release it) was taken since there was not enough area in the zoo to house the bear and we feared that there would be infighting in the single enclosure where a male and a female bear are presently kept,” Bhutia said. He was present yesterday when the bear was darted very close to the administrative complex of East Sikkim.

Nearly eight darts were fired. The joint director of the state forest department, J.B. Subba, divisional forest officer (territorial) East Sikkim, B.B. Gurung and the medical assistant of the Bulbuley zoo, Sonam Tshering Lepcha, were injured when they approached the bear, which they thought had fallen asleep. But proving them wrong, the animal came after them and Subba was the first person to be attacked. A witness had said Subba could have been killed had not a police sub-inspector hurled stones at the bear to distract it. But the flailing claws caught Subba on the face and Gurung on the left leg and thigh. Lepcha dislocated his arm when he fell while fleeing.

Subba and Gurung were flown by a helicopter to a nursing home in Siliguri at 3.30pm yesterday.

Senior forest officials said the bear might have come in search of food from the nearby Rateychu reserve forest. The Himalayan black bear is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act and is among the most endangered species.

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