An incident that is a reminder of the perils that Forest officials face almost on a daily basis, yet brave all the dangers to fulfill their duties. In a petrifying chain of events of a tiger causing menace in human settlements and almost endangering the life of a trained officer – it bears testament to the hardships of the job. A Range Forest Officer (RFO) who was on duty at Kolavally, near Pulpally, on the Kerala-Karnataka border was attacked by a tiger on Sunday afternoon. Chethalath forest range officer T Sasikumar sustained bite injuries on his left shoulder resulting in bone fracture and has been admitted at the DM WIMS medical college at Meppadi.
Sasikumar, 55, RFO, Chethalayath forest range of the South Wayanad forest division, came under attack around 2.30 p.m. at a private plantation at Kolavally while a Forest Department team led by him was on a search operation for the tiger which had been reported to have strayed into human inhabitations. As reported by The Hindu South Wayanad divisional forest officer P Renjith Kumar said that Sasikumar fell on the ground in the attack and the tiger bit him on the shoulder. He had a narrow escape as the forest staff and local residents screamed aloud following which the tiger left him and ran away. He has been admitted to a hospital at Meppadi in the district with serious injuries on his left shoulder.
The tiger has been spreading panic in the area for the last five days after straying into human habitations. The local residents said that the tiger had been spotted multiple times and it had killed two pet dogs during the last three days. Sasikumar who was initially taken to the Sulthan Bathery Taluk hospital was shifted to the DM WIMS hospital. Chethalath deputy forest range officer Baijunath said that in order to be able to capture the tiger, the forest department has installed two cages in the area to capture the tiger. As further precautionary measures, people have been asked to remain on high alert and not to venture outside their homes at night at all.
Forest officials suspect that the tiger had come from the Bandipur Tiger Reserve across the border in Karnataka, as Kolavally is a border village alongside the Kabini river. According to The Times of India, Forest officials however said that they have not established the identity of the animal yet using camera traps. Local residents are demanding the capture of the animal after tranquilizing it as it has been spreading panic in the area.
This is the second tiger attack suffered by Sasikumar in the last five months. In August, he had another narrow escape after a tiger pounced on him while trying to drive the animal which had strayed into Velikolli area. Sasikumar and the forest watcher had a narrow escape as they were wearing helmets. This incident reiterates the need for the greater vigil when Forest official teams go in search of wild and dangerous animals. It also highlights the need for better protective gear that would ensure the safety of forest officials and mitigate injury even in the case of an unforeseen attack that could not have been anticipated.