Gangtok: It is April fool’s day and a lot of pranks could follow, but this story from Gangtok in the Himalayan state of Sikkim isn’t a prank. Amidst the national lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread, Gangtok was greeted by a Himalayan black bear on Wednesday.
However, the bear also injured a Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) engineer Arvind Yadav at the BSNL office, barely 100 m from MG Marg, when he was supposedly closing one of the doors of the building. He has been taken to STNM Hospital and admitted to the ICU.
Later, forest minister Karma Loday Bhutia reached the spot along with divisional forest officer (wildlife) Dechen Lachungpa and Sikkim Police officials led by DIG Range Sonam Tenzing Bhutia.
Giving an account of the incident, an eye-witness said, “Around 4.10 am, some people heard noises fearing it could be a burglar who may have entered the premises. They saw the bear and shut the building door. The animal, on the contrary, may have been shocked in itself and upon reacting, it fell some 6-7 ft below the telecom building and got stuck between another building that houses a diagnostics centre. It was trapped, with only access to the two building spaces being the back gate of the telecom building. We called the guard at the building urging them not to get out, but the engineer trying to shut the back door was attacked by the animal.
Attempts at controlling the situation took the forest department officials and Sikkim Police the whole day as the animal could not be shot with a tranquilizer in that limited space between the two buildings with the additional issues of wire tangles all around. Around 2 pm, attempts were made at tear-gassing the animal. Many residents of Tibet Road area, above MG Marg area, claimed to have seen the animal roaming about the premises. The nearest zoo or the forest reserve to Gangtok, is some 6 km above Gangtok.
East Sikkim divisional forest officer for wildlife Dechen Lachungpa said that attempts at tranquilising the animal were not successful till 2 pm. “There was no proper sighting of the animal, we were able to see it only twice. The animal seemed to have climbed to the first floor as many hours had passed since morning and it was in the circuit room of the BSNL office then. It is a big room with many smaller rooms inside with lots of wires and electric surges. We tried to cut off the electricity to that room so that when crackers are bursted to scare the animal, it doesn’t catch fire. But that attempt failed as there was a backup generator, the lines to which could be disconnected. So we gave up on the idea of scaring the animal with crackers in that room. There was no window, so we removed two AC units that were at a 3-ft height. Through that, we tried to see the animal. We sighted it just once,” Lachungpa said.
Sikkim Police DIG (Range) Sonam Tenzing Bhutia was also present at the spot with Sikkim Police personnel. He highlighted how the situation had unfolded since 5.30 in the morning with the Himalayan black bear creating panic. Speaking with media earlier in the day, he said, “The police and forest officials were not able to control the situation as the attempts at tranquilizing the animal failed till then. I appeal the public that they must avoid morning walks over this lockdown as there is peace everywhere, traffic and public movement is not there, hence animals are moving and other animals could also follow. Hence, safety measures over the lockdown with no movement being made by the public in the dark.
The animal was finally tranquilised around 5.30 pm. Forest officials said it was in a very aggressive state of mind because of the tranquiliser.
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