Saturday, November 14, 2009


Gangtok, Nov. 14: Residents of the hill town are scared to venture out of their houses after frequent sightings of Himalayan black bears in the area and reports of their attacks on people.

According to the officers of the forest department there have been 18 bear sightings in the last month and six persons have been mauled.

K.S. Bhutia, who stays in Development Area near here, has stopped going out of his house in the early hours. “I used to get up before sunrise to go jogging. Now, I am scared to venture out, thanks to these bears straying into the town. I do free-hand exercises in the safety of my home instead,” said the 37-year-old man.

Adarsh Rai, a taxi driver, said: “There is no substitute for caution. After so many sightings I am scared to stop the car at the roadside, near forest areas.”

Rabin Pradhan, 57, a resident of Sichey, where a bear had mauled three senior forest officials on November 3, said, he is scared to go out of his house and keeps a watch on his children and warns them before they go out.

The forest department has sought Rs 60 lakh from the state government for buying improved dart guns, drugs, ambulances and nets to tackle emergency situations arising out of bear attacks.

The divisional forest officer (wildlife east), Karma Legshey, said four teams, each headed by an assistant conservator of forests, have been deputed in East Sikkim. Range officers have been deputed in the blocks to tackle bears straying into human habitation.

“We appeal to the residents of the area not to take independent action, approach or provoke the animals and not to pay heed to rumours and inform the forest staff or police as soon as a bear is spotted,” said Legshey.

Senior forest officials said conservation efforts and crack down on poaching activities in the forests have led to the rise in the bear population leading to competition for food.

“The bears are being attracted by garbage in urban areas that contain about 70 per cent of edible trash,” said an officer. He added that the use of explosives in hydel power projects and road construction work was also a source of disturbance to the animals.

Meanwhile, a bear that was sighted near the Himalayan Zoological Park, 7km from here, on November 9, is still at large. “It has been sighted after that day, too and guards have been posted in the area to keep a sharp lookout for the animal,” said a zoo official

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