Indian tigress rescued, released before serious incident

Tezpur Tiger

An International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) team led by veterinarians Dr Samshul Ali and Dr Jahan Ahmed rescued a conflict tigress in Dolabari. The tigress was transported to the Bogijuli Forest Camp of Nameri National Park and released the same night. The following is a first-hand account of the operation from rescue to release by Drs Jahan Ahmed and Samshul Ali. --RC

Shortly after reports came in that there was a tiger wandering in the campus of the North Eastern Regional Institute of Water and Land Management (NERIWALM) in Tezpur, IFAW-WTI lead veterinarian Dr Panjit Basumatary advised the Assam Forest Department officials to set up a trap cage with a camera trap.

The tiger did not enter the trap that night, but when she attacked and seriously injured a boy earlier that morning, we dispatched with Dr Bhaskar Choudhury and animal keepers Hemanta Das and Debajit Saikia.

The tigress, we were told, was hiding in a bamboo thicket adjoining the campus wall. It had apparently attacked the boy as he went to fish in one of the ponds in the area that morning – perhaps in self-defence as it had used only its claws.

People had seen the tigress running into the thicket after the attack.

We decided to monitor the animal but not disturb her during the day when more people were out and about. We would instead wait till nightfall and ask people to stay indoors while we drove the tigress away in a coordinated manner towards Bhomoraguri about a kilometre away. Tranquilising the animal would be a last resort.

Shortly thereafter, we heard a loud roar and the tigress revealed her presence: three unruly youths had snuck past the civil administration’s barricade and entered the thicket. Fortunately they were able to flee for their lives and the tigress retreated into the undergrowth.

At 9:30 pm the drive began. We tried bursting crackers to drive the tigress away from the campus. But it didn’t work.

The following morning, we found her near her original spot with the help of some disturbed monkey chatter. The tigress was lying in front of an abandoned structure in an area covered with thick bushes.

We prepared the tranquiliser darts and approached the tigress, but there was no clear shot through the undergrowth. We thought we could approach from the other side, through the dilapidated structure. We broke the quarter’s lock and had a better view of her through the mesh of a window.

READ: The plight of the Indian tiger

She was lying about 15 feet from where we were.

Making a small hole in the window’s wire mesh, Samshul stuck the tranquiliser rifle through and darted her on her rump and the dart delivered the full dose. About 10 minutes later the tigress’s head was dropping, but another dart was necessary.

Seven minutes later, the tigress was fully sedated.

Having used a tree branch to confirm that she was, indeed, out for the count, we approached her and covered her eyes with a blindfold. At this moment a crowd of people – there seemed to be hundreds of them – poured into the area to get a closer look at the tigress.

We placed the animal on a folding stretcher and transferred her into a trap cage. She had a superficial wound on the right belly and the groin. We used a topical steroidal ointment and antibiotic spray to treat the wounds.

The tigress was placed in a small truck and we headed out to Nameri National Park. Water was sprayed on her to keep her cool. We moved at a careful pace, reaching Seijosa at 7.30 pm, halting for a bit and moving on to Bogijuli.

The tigress had some self-inflicted external injuries on her forehead but was otherwise in good shape.

The cage was unloaded into the hollow foundation of the camp. We set up four camera traps in strategic positions and attached a hook by which the cage door could be pulled up with a rope. After ensuring that everyone was either in the camp or in their vehicles, I fixed the hook to the door and climbed up to the camp.

We pulled the door up and the tigress moved out of the cage, looking around before she then slowly moved into the forest.

--JA & SA

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