Snowfall thwarts attempts to release rescued bear in the wild

April 3, 2020


Gangtok, 02 Apr:

Heavy snowfall today thwarted attempts by a team of personnel from the Wildlife Division of Forest Department to release the Himalayan Black Bear rescued from the BSNL Telephone Exchange yesterday.

The team was planning to release the bear at Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary near Tsomgo in East Sikkim on Thursday, but heavy snowfall en route force them to turn back midway.

The team had left early this morning to release the bear in the thick forest of Pangolakha. The bear, meanwhile, is being kept at the Himalayan Zoological Park at Bulbuley, where it will remain till the road clears.

Speaking to Summit Times, DFO [Wildlife], East, Dechen Lachungpa said, “We fed the bear this morning and after a thorough health check-up it was found that bear is an adult male and was absolutely fine and active and had not sustained any injuries, hence our team was immediately dispatched to release the bear in a thick jungle.”

She stressed that translocation and rehabilitation has to be done with care to ensure relocation into its natural habitat and to keep it away from human habitations.

Responding to query about yesterday’s rescue operation, the DFO mentioned that while such operations are rare in town areas like Gangtok, the Wildlife Division personnel routinely conduct such operations, as often as 4 to 5 times a month, especially in high altitudes where bears often into godowns in army areas.

She added that the team has been routinely rescuing wild animals from human habitat and releasing them in forests. 

“However, yesterday’s operation in Gangtok was difficult as the bear was inside the building and people were in its surroundings. The first priority for us was to save the injured person before handling the bear and our team members risked their lives to save the life of a person as the bear was between that person and the team,” she detailed.

She appreciated the hardwork of the team in bringing out the person safely from a ventilation.

She added that although the person has sustained head injuries, he was out of danger and receiving treatment at STNM Hospital.

When asked about the possible reasons why the bear stumbled into Gangtok, Ms Lachungpa mentioned that shoots of Cobra Lily of the Arisaema family with the arrival of spring season followed by bamboo shoots could have attracted the bear.

She adds that there were more than 15 jhoras around Gangtok which were presently being used irresponsibly for disposal of garbage and food items which could also have attracted the bear to human habitat.

“Dense overgrowth have developed along many of these jhoras so these are perfect corridors for bears use and the reduced movement of vehicles and people could have further cleared the corridor for this bear,” she said.

On the same, DFO urged the people to be more careful while going on morning walks and urged proper handling and disposal of garbage.

“Our experienced team is always ready for such incidents but at the same time it is also important for the people to stay alert and sensitize themselves to keep jhoras clean and clear,” she said.

It may be recalled that after a perilous and tiring operation which lasted around 12 hours, the Himalayan Black Bear which had wandered into town early Wednesday morning and had sequestered itself inside the BSNL Telephone Exchange below Thakurbari was finally tranquilized and rescued late in the evening.

A team of officials and personnel from the Wildlife Division of Forest Department, assisted by Sikkim Police, struggled through the day to keep both, the people and the Himalayan Black Bear safe, and evacuate the animal safely.

After seeing the bear at around 5 AM near the building, a local resident had immediately informed that District Administration.

Responding immediately to the information, officials and staff of Forest Department, Sikkim Police and District Administration reached the spot and started the rescue operation.

It took quite some time to even spot the bear and it was eventually found inside the BSNL building. And the next challenge was to tranquilize and rescue it safely.

Earlier, the bear had injured a BSNL engineer, Arvind Yadav, before it entered and disappeared into the building. Mr Yadav has sustained grievous injuries to his head and other parts of the body and is receiving treatment at STNM Hospital.

Forest Minister, Karma Loday Bhutia and other senior officials of the department were also present on the spot till the end of the operation.

The DFO, meanwhile, has urged people to immediately inform the department in case of any wild animal sighting in urban areas on helpline number, 7679699244 [DFO] and 95937 83620 [RO].

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