Tiger kills yet another person in Bardiya, this time a mahout involved in rhino countThe rhino census has been halted for two days following Sunday afternoon’s incident. On Friday, the count was also stalled in Chitwan after a wild elephant attacked and injured the enumerators.
Tiger terror has once again rocked Bardiya district. On Sunday afternoon, a man was fatally mauled by a Royal Bengal tiger inside Bardiya National Park.
The latest victim was not someone living around the park, but a park staff member deployed for the ongoing rhino census.
Policeram Tharu, 31, a mahout involved in the rhino count, was attacked by the tiger at Gaidamachan inside the core area of the park, officials said.
Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, chief conservation of the park, said the incident happened while Tharu was cutting grass for his elephant.
“Once the daily counting of rhinos is completed, elephants are rested. Mahouts usually collect grass during this time or they take their elephants out for grazing,” said Shrestha. “Tharu was attacked while he was cutting grass for his elephant.”
Tharu’s body was recovered at around 8 pm, nearly three hours after the incident. He was the tenth victim of tiger attack in Bardiya this fiscal year.
According to Shrestha, five deaths took place in the park’s jurisdiction area—the core area and the park’s buffer zone—while five other deaths occurred in the areas under the scope of Division Forest Office, Bardiya.
Frequent tiger attacks in recent months have already left locals living around the park and adjoining forests terrorised.
“Tiger numbers in Bardiya National Park have increased lately. This could also be one of the reasons behind increasing tiger attacks,” said Haribhadra Acharya, spokesperson with the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation. “The recent incident has shown that everyone should be alert and follow precautions while being around and inside the park.”
The latest death has led the park authorities to suspend all tourism activities around the park area for a day. The ongoing rhino census was also halted for two days—until Tuesday.
The nationwide counting of one-horned rhinos began in Bardiya National Park on March 31.
“Elephants are used for rhino counting. Since Sunday’s incident also involved a staff member who was part of the census, we have decided to not conduct counting on Monday and Tuesday,” said Shrestha. “We will resume counting from Wednesday.”
The park had mobilised 60 wildlife technicians and officials and ten elephants for the rhino count.
This is the second time in one week that the nationwide rhino census, which began on March 22 from the Chitwan-Parsa complex, has been halted.
On Friday, the team counting rhinos in Chitwan National Park was attacked by a wild elephant, leaving many enumerators injured. The count was halted for one day as a result.
Officials say Sunday’s case is the first in which a rhino census team member was killed in the line of duty.
“There are no known or official records of an individual killed while on duty for counting rhinos, although enumerators falling off the elephants and getting injured are common incidents,” said Acharya, also an ecologist with the department. “This time, we have seen two unfortunate events in Chitwan and Bardiya.”
The park authorities have darted and captured the tiger that is said to have killed Tharu. The captured tiger would be transported to Central Zoo, according to Shrestha. This is the fourth tiger that the park authorities have captured in this fiscal year, following frequent attacks on locals and their livestock.
“Sometimes, such tragic incidents happen. We were not expecting this sudden attack on one of our staff, which led to the halting of the rhino count for two days,” said Shrestha. “Now, all of us need to be extra alert. As the problem-causing tiger has been captured and removed, there is a kind of assurance that the same tiger will not be attacking anyone now. ”
The Bardiya National Park, which hosts 29 one-horned rhinos as per the census of 2015, has planned to complete counting within two weeks. The government has planned to release the result of the rhino census in the third week of this month.
“The third week of April is our target. If counting teams face frequent disturbances, like in Chitwan and Bardiya, the date of unveiling the findings could change,” said Acharya. “For example, an adverse weather condition like a powerful storm and wind can affect the counting. Such challenges are considered even during the planning phase of rhino counting.”