From the very beginning of my life tigers were part of the stories my parents and grandparents told me. The tales from my childhood always made me look for tiger related news and stories as I was growing up. It was sad to learn that within the past few decades tigers had lost so much of their habitation all over the world, I kept wanting to do something to protect tigers. My passion for tigers and wildlife eventually led to become a veterinarian.
More than a year ago, I saw a job opportunity in a newspaper to join WildTeam. The word ‘tiger’ immediately caught my eye in the job description. I knew this was a wonderful chance to fulfill my dream of playing a part in tiger conservation that I couldn’t miss. Ever since, I have been a part of WildTeam.
In WildTeam I came to know that saving the tiger cannot be done by a single person or a single organization. We are working hand in hand with government organizations and local stakeholders for Bengal tiger conservation. Conservation often requires 24 hours constant vigilance and comes with a lot of emotional turmoil. A similar emotional rollercoaster ride happened when we attempted to rescue an injured tigress from the Sundarbans last month.
On 27 January 2014, a wounded tigress was sighted in the bank of a Sundarbans adjacent river in Lawdobe under the administrative unit of Chandpai Range of Sundarbans (Sundarbans is divided into four ranges). Just after getting this information WildTeam’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) rushed there and collected pictures of injured tiger and other related information from local witnesses. It was deduced that the tiger had a nylon rope tied around its fore limb which had cut into the flesh; it also displayed difficulty in walking.
As a wildlife veterinarian I felt it was my ethical duty to help rescue the tigress from this painful situation. The photos of her wound touched the whole team’s heart and we immediately began working on a plan about how to help it. After coordination with the Forest Department, it was decided that we would attempt to rescue the tigress by using a box trap and then it would be sent to the newly established Bangabandhu Safari Park in Gazipur for further treatment and rehabilitation. Following that plan, both the Emergency Response Team of WildTeam, and Forest Department worked day and night for 12 days, tracking the tigress’s movement, setting up the box trap and monitoring the situation in the surrounding villages. Everyone was motivated to save the tigress; through all the hard work and anxiety, the passion was shining in everyone’s eyes. Finally after almost two weeks, we were able to trap the tiger unharmed on 7 February. Immediately after the capture, we checked her injury and physical condition from distant observation. The tigress was weak and emaciated as perhaps it couldn’t hunt because of the injuries. We said goodbye to tigress that night, hoping for its quick recovery, and perhaps for a return to the Sundarbans.
On 9 February the medical team from Bangladesh Agricultural University conducted surgery on her injured leg. We were relieved to hear that the surgery was initially successful. However, it broke our hearts when we heard that the tigress had died on 19 February. According to the medical board the reason might have been hypovolumic shock or neurogenic shock. The news devastated all of us who worked so hard to ensure its safety, and wished to see it aging inside the forest.
Our only consolation knowing that we had tried our best with limited resources, that each and every person from WildTeam and Forest Department present in the field had given it everything they had. I hope all of us have learnt a lot from both the rescue and the post rescue health management experience which will help us to become better conservationists in the future.
I am proud to be working with a group of people who are so dedicated to protecting the tiger. Conservation is much more than just a job to us; we felt the tigress’s pain every single moment of this mission. Although we couldn’t protect her to a safe recovery, the experience will continue to motivate us to build a secure future for the beautiful tigers roaring through our beautiful Sundarbans.