Monday, November 16, 2009

Bear mauls again in Gangtok

Gangtok, Nov. 15: A Himalayan black bear pounced on and mauled a grass cutter near the state secretariat here this morning, barely two weeks after three senior forest officials were injured in a similar attack in a residential area of the town.

Around 10.30am, 38-year-old Bimal Gurung was working on a green patch between Palace Ridge Park and the Tashiling state secretariat when the bear came up from behind him. It pounced on him, its force pushing him to the ground. It is not clear how Gurung, who is hardly able to speak, fended off the bear or why the animal left him.

On a weekday, the area on the outskirts and on a higher level than Gangtok, is fairly crowded with people queuing up to the secretariat which houses the various departments of the government.

Chutim Dorjee Lepcha, the person in whose house Gurung worked, said he heard shouts for help and rushed out. “I saw Bimal bleeding and barely able to walk up the slope towards the road. He managed to tell me that a bear had pounced on him while he was cutting grass. The animal was nowhere to be seen,” he said.

Gurung was rushed to Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital where doctors, who attended on him, said his right arm was fractured and he suffered severe injuries on the head, chest and face.

Later, he was shifted to Central Referral Hospital at Tadong.

Forest secretary S.T. Lachungpa visited the injured man at STNM Hospital and handed him Rs 5,000 as initial payment for his treatment.

“I held a meeting with senior forest officials after the incident and it was decided that seven to eight spots in the state capital which is contiguous to forested land would be manned constantly to prevent incidents like this one. We appeal to the people to be very cautious in the morning and at nightfall when bears are mostly active, looking for food,” Lachungpa said. He added that Himalayan black bears were known to attack humans without provocation.

The bear was still at large till late this evening. A team from Himalayan Zoological Park led by deputy director Madan Shankar, senior wildlife officials and local police combed the area. The forest department also received reports today that an adult bear, most probably a female, and two cubs were sighted in Shyari, another locality in the capital.

“We combed the area around the secretariat and tried to flush out the bear using firecrackers but it could not be traced and most probably the animal must have moved to another location,” Shankar said.

Today’s incident takes the number of bear transgressions into human habitation in the state to more than 20 in the past one month, forest sources said.

The department has chalked out a plan that would entail a cost of Rs 60 lakh for better arms, darts, ambulances and other material to tackle the bear menace. However, the report is yet to be submitted.

The last sighting of the animal was on Thursday when three bears, which swam across the Teesta river at the reservoir site at Dikchu in East Sikkim, killed a goat. Forest officials said the increase in the population of bears and other wild animals in the forest areas have led to food competition forcing the animals to migrate into human settlements.

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