Rajgir (Bihar) : In an ominous warning to the forest staff, an armed group of alleged Maoist extremists yesterday shot dead a six month old bear cub, being rehabilitated inside a forest in the eastern Indian Bihar state.
The extremists numbering approximately 40, who chanced upon the unarmed keeper taking five bears for an acclimatisation walk inside the Rajavaran forest in Bhimband Wildlife Sanctuary, threatened him and asked him never to come close to this area.
The five bears were taking their daily walk in the forest as a part of a rehabilitation project where they were being given lessons in turning wild by human surrogate mothers, who taught them to climb trees, search for food and make dens.
The Maoists, who were suspected to have camps inside the forest, did not have any problem with the bear rehabilitation project till now.
“This is absolutely mindless. If the extremists had a problem with the rehabilitation project they could have just warned the keeper. Why kill a poor defenceless bear cub,” Aniruddha Mookerjee, Chief Operating Officer of the Wildlife Trust of India(WTI) said.
WTI and The World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) are providing technical assistance to the bear cubs being rehabilitated by the Bihar Forest Department. The cubs had been confiscated from Kalandars two months ago, who were training them to perform.
At around 8 am, as part of the daily routine, the keeper, Vinod, took the five cubs to the forests for a walk. By noon, when he was about two kilometers inside he ran into a group of about 40 armed men, some in khaki uniforms. They threatened him death if he did not run away immediately.
The frightened keeper ran for his life leaving the cubs behind and reached the project’s base camp near the Khorvawa forest check post at the boundary of the reserve. While, he was running he heard a gunshot, but did not know what they were shooting at.
After reaching Khorvawa he informed the officials about the incident. Three hours later when he reached the spot along with his colleagues, the four bears were hiding in the bush. “On being called they emerged from undergrowth and came running.”
“The body of the cub was found a few feet away from them,” The Divisional Forest Officer, Manoj Singh, said.
“We will lodge a police complaint soon, as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, but I doubt if police will be able to catch the culprits.”
“These gangs, who claim to be Maoists, have been creating all sorts of nuisance here, but police have failed to take any action against them. They don’t want our activities here since they have hideouts inside the forest. The place is no longer safe.” Singh said.
“We will shift the rest of the cubs to the Rajgir Range office about 150 kms from here, where they were housed before.” he said.
“The bullet entered near the hind leg and exited from the back according to the post-mortem and the body has been burnt,” Bipul Chakravarty, Manager Wild Rescue, who reached the spot this morning said.