Proper safety gear can act as lifesaver for forest guards

Two years ago, I witnessed an event where a ranger, trying to rescue a tiger from a crowded village on the outskirts of Ranthambhore, was attacked by the tiger. It was a fatal attack by the huge predator and the ranger lost an eye. I was at a safe distance and was able to capture the incident with my camera. Fortunately, the other forest personnel around the ranger were successful in saving him from the attack. Later, I analysed the timings of the attack through my photograph details which showed that the actual tiger-ranger interaction was for mere five seconds under which, he had caught, caused damage and left him. At this time, many people said that the crowd standing there did not help in any way, to save the ranger.

Last week, a tiger in Ranthambhore killed a forest guard working with two labour groups making roads inside the forest. The guard was walking between the two groups when he got attacked by the tiger and was dragged 70-80 feet inside the bushes. Almost 50 minutes later, the rescue teams arrived at the spot. The tiger left the body and sat about 70-100 metres away. He was twitching his tail, which indicated his mood of not letting go the dead body. After much difficulty, the body was lifted and taken into possession by the forest officials, who found canine marks on his neck area. Had the ground worker worn any kind of safety gear, he would have been saved from the fatal attack. The team which later lifted the body did not have any safety measure to protect themselves from the angry animal as well.

This is not an effort to portray the tiger in any bad light; tiger is the nature’s most efficient predator. Nevertheless, is the forest staff that deals with the big cat every day, ready for it? Often the rescue team involved with a tiger or leopard rescue gets injured themselves. Minute preparations can delay the attack and also save the human body from damage to vital organs. These preparations include wearing combat gear like neck braces, helmets, among others, during operations. It is deeply saddening that we are careless about our own safety while dealing with such critical situations and in turn blame the wild animals. The situation is more so in a country like ours, where we have diverse wildlife with many carnivores and not enough logistics to manage them. These attacks last for a very short duration creating maximum damage. Thus, the reaction of people around is to escape to remain safe. Hence, it is required to have enough gear, which would minimise damage and give time to the lifesavers to reach out for help.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)

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