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Witnessing changing timesSundarbans witnesses a high number of tiger straying incidents, wherein tigers enter agricultural fields or human settlements, and they need to be rescued and driven out of these areas towards the forest before any harm is done to the local communities. Says Biswas, “There was a time when rescuing a tiger was the most difficult task, as it had to be shielded from a huge mob ready to pelt it with stones and sticks. But over the years, the communities have learnt to live peacefully with tigers, and even come forward to help in rescue operations.” He recalls, “My team was on a regular patrol when our walkie talkies delivered the news of a tiger hiding in a paddy field in a village near the Tiger Reserve. We immediately set out for the spot, and upon reaching, saw that the local communities had already fenced the area with bamboo and nets, confining the tiger in one area, so we could tranquilize and carry it out. The operation was conducted smoothly, and the tiger was released deep in the forest near a creek.” Laughing at the memory, he adds, “The tiger received a cheerful farewell, with a huge mob of people clapping as he swam away into the woods.”
A second chance at life, also dedicated to the tigersNot all rescue operations have a happy ending. Biswas has a bone chilling experience to share, which very few actually live to tell. On 13 November 2007, when he was still a forest guard, he was part of a team of 5 members trying to rescue a tiger hiding in an agricultural field. Biswas was armed with a lathi and was just a few metres away from where the tiger was hiding, but before he could realize it, the tiger pounced out of the field and landed on Biswas’s right knee. As the tiger sank his teeth into his flesh, Biswas mustered all the strength in his body to hit the tiger with his lathi. But that did not scare away the tiger. It gave Biswas another blow across his head and neck, which knocked him unconscious. His team mates reached closer to him and raised an alarm, which finally drove the tiger away. Biswas was carried to the hospital with injuries to his head, neck and knee. He lay unconscious for 3 months, fighting for his life. Witnessing such an incident can scare a person enough to never get close to a tiger, even in a zoo. But not Biswas! Once he gained consciousness, he worked towards regaining his health, and was back on his feet in 3 months, dedicating his second chance at life to the tigers.
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