Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Operation Bear to Safeguard Gangtokians

Operation launched to prevent bear from transgressing into Chandmari

Gangtok, November11: Even as people across the State are reeling under a series of bear attacks especially with the November 3 incident at Upper Sichey, another large Himalayan Black bear was sighted at Bulbuley forest cover very close to Chandmari population yesterday night.
The bear was sighted at night near the Himalayan Zoological Park periphery and was again spotted by a lady in the morning. The bear was rambling along the bushes near the zoo fence at the zoo gate with only the road separating the animal from wandering into the human settlement at Chandmari.
The bear is said to be larger than that which appeared at Upper Sichey. The bear at Upper Sichey was an adult one, weighed approximately 90 kgs and was of a height of 3.5 ft.
A team of forest officials and forest guards reached Bulbuley along with a team of Gangtok police. The area was cordoned by forest and police personnel. Forest guards were stationed in key points of the zoo and the approach roads while the local people were appealed to remain calm.
SP (East) Dr MS Tuli and Gangtok Sadar police station in-charge PI Tshering Sherpa also reached the spot to assist the forest team.
ACF Ashoke Pradhan and RO D Pradhan told media that pug marks of the bear were found in the area during the search operation.
A strategy was charted to tackle the situation and emphasis was laid on chasing the bear to the higher regions from the zoo area and not to allow the animal to cross the road and stray into the human settlements.
The bear being a nocturnal animal moves around in the night hours which the forest officials decided was the most appropriate time to chase the bear upwards. The operation was launched by the forest and police personnel in the late evening hours of Monday.
ACF Pradhan said that forest and police staff has been deployed in key areas to prevent the bear from crossing down the road while another team of forest and police personnel will be trying to chase the bear to higher locales away from the human habitats.
A clearer picture will be available only tomorrow, said Pradhan.
The Bulbuley bear is the fourth bear that had transgressed into human settlements and come in very close contact with humans, sometimes with tragic results.
At least five people have already been mauled by the stray bears in East, North and West districts of Sikkim.
Various statements have been coming up for such incidents. It is opined that with the winter setting in, bears are beefing up its food intake as the animals will soon hibernate. The bears have wandered into the human settlements in search of food, it is explained.
It is also argued that the food items of bears in the wild have dried up due to low production and also due to humans taking away wild fruits and berries for consumption and selling.
The State forest department has pointed out increase in wild animal population in the forest and wildlife protected areas, congenial conditions for breeding and shelter for wild animals, collection of edible fruit, flowers, young and tenders bamboo shoots and other non-timber forest produce from the forest by humans and change in agriculture practices in rural areas like conversion of agriculture fields into cardamom plantations as the attributing factors for increase in man-animal conflicts.
The department has appealed the people not to retaliate or take any independent action or approach the wild animal if the animal is sighted in and around human habitations. Do not fuel or heed any rumours which may create panic among the people, said the department.
The people have also been appealed not to dispose garbage especially rice beer wastage in and around human habitats.
Meanwhile, it has also appeared that the forest department is insufficiently prepared if a wild animal like bear has to be captured from non-forest areas. The department is said to have only limited resources for such scenarios.
The department has only one vet team trained to wild dart animals that have transgressed into urban areas. The team is further handicapped with insufficient equipment and only two guns to fire the tranquilizer darts.
With bears running amock in three districts, the team has been running around these areas compromising the safety of other forest personnel in areas where they cannot reach in time.
For instance, the vet and tranquilizer team could be here in Bulbuley as it had rushed to Mangan where a woman had been mauled by a bear yesterday. Before this, the team was in West Sikkim where another bear mauling had occurred.

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