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Mongar: Bear mauls village girl
November 2006
Doctors at the Mongar Regional Referral Hospital are treating a 13-year-old girl who was mauled by a bear and lost her upper lip, nose and left cheek.

The girl from Thangrong, Mongar, was referred to the hospital on Friday, a day after she was attacked by the bear and admitted to the village Basic health unit (BHU).

According to the parents, the girl had left the house at about 5:00 pm to spend the night at her friend's house and was attacked by the bear on the way.

The mother reported that her daughter was attending the non-formal education (NFE) programme and had to walk for almost an hour to reach the NFE centre.

"On that day she decided to stay with her friend so that she didn't have to start early the next day," her mother said.

The mother said that the girl had continued walking to her friend's place even after the attack. "I don't know when she regained her consciousness but when she reached her friend's house, her friend did not recognise her and had screamed and ran after seeing her face," she said.

The village chupen (messenger), who was a neighbour of the friend, informed the parents about the incident.

The Mongar district medical officer, Dr. Lotay, said that the girl needed to undergo face reconstruction treatment, which could not be done in Bhutan.

"But we are in touch with hospitals in Kolkata and Vellore in India and will be referring her to either of the two hospitals as soon as we get the response," said the doctor. "We could not send her immediately because of the wound infection."

The doctor said that girl was in a stable condition and had not suffered other injuries. "Since she lost whole of upper lip, we are tube feeding her," he said.

"The only risk is the infection of the face. She can have a functional face but structurally, it would be impossible to bring back to normal," said Dr. Lotay.

According to the father of the girl, villagers had later traced footprints of two bears. He said that this was the first time somebody was attacked by a bear in the village. "We never had or heard of such incidences earlier," he said.

The girl was the youngest of seven children in the family.


Punakha: Man severely mauled
November 2006
61-year-old man from Gumkamu in Punakha was severely mauled by a bear on November 22 barely a week after a village girl in Mongar was mauled.

The man, Wangdi, was on his way to the forest to collect firewood with a friend when a bear suddenly appeared and attacked him.

According to Wangdi, who is now recuperating at the national referral hospital in Thimphu, his friend fled the scene while he wrestled the bear. "It freed me after I stabbed him thrice in the stomach with my Bachem (short sword)," he said.

"As the bear bit my left hand I managed to free my right hand and reached for my Bachem. After I stabbed thrice the bear rolled over and left."

His friend returned after a while and carried him back to the village. Wangdi was admitted to the Punakha hospital.

According to the surgeon general in Thimphu, Dr. Thant Naing, Wangdi had suffered fractured bones on his face and ear when he was brought to the hospital. "He had also lost three of his fingers."

Bear attacks, especially at this time of the year, is common in almost all regions of the country.

According to nature conservation specialists, the most common bear found in Bhutan is the Himalayan black bear. It is found in almost all over the country. "While the Sloth bear and Brown bear are also found in Bhutan, it is always the Himalayan Black bear that humans encounter," said conservation specialist, Dr. Sangay Wangchuk of the Nature Conservation Division.

"Humans are not the major prey for the Himalayan Black bear since they are omnivore," he said. "It is their instinctive behaviour to attack. They attack in self defense."

The specialist said that bear attacks are common at this time of the year because they are preparing to hibernate for the winter. "The bears are roaming freely in search for food and when they encounter humans they attack in self defense or out of fright."

Although no study had been done on bears, the Nature Conservation Division of the agriculture ministry is carrying out a survey on bears in Bhutan, according to Dr. Sangay Wangchuk.

Villagers believe that a person encountering a bear should never look at the animal in the eye. "Provoked or unprovoked, bears never leave humans without inflicting severe injuries," said retired lam Namgay who encountered a bear on the way to Tshaluna, Thimphu, on October 25.

"You should play dead if you see a bear," Namgay said. "The best way to prevent an attack is to shout always when you are alone in the forest."

Records maintained with Kuensel showed that bears had mauled about 40 people across the country since the early 1990s. Five men, three women including an infant were killed in bear attack.

Bears also killed 115 heads of cattle and 54 pigs over a period of 15 years, according to Kuensel records. Two bears were also killed in reprisal attacks.

Internet sources said that the Himalayan black bear is the most carnivore of all bears although it usually feeds on fruits and berries.

Punakha Dzong

Bear mauls man to death
Himalayan Black Bear
A 48-year old man was mauled to death by a Himalayan black bear after he tried to manhandle the bear. An apple orchard caretaker in Selikha, about 25 kilometers from Thimphu town, had shot the bear with a poisoned arrow that he had set in a trap. In the morning he had followed a trail of blood left by the injured 70-kilogramme male bear.

Forestry officials who investigated the incident believe that the injured bear had turned back and attacked the man who was found later with a crushed skull and multiple injuries. While such incidents are not common, bear attacks in the country are not rare, according to forestry officials.

Himalayan Black bears are protected

In fact people are regularly mauled by bears. Two weeks back, a bear mauled a woman in her own kitchen garden in Khasakha, above Khasadrapchu. Another bear escaped from a trap in an apple orchard in Pachakha, near Khasadrapchu. Bears have attacked humans, destroyed crops, and cattle. The Himalayan black bear was usually aggressive when provoked and it was commonly believed that bears could wait for up to nine years to avenge an injury.

Autumn is the bear's migratory season and time to prepare for hibernation so they are frequently out in the orchards. The Himalayan Black bear falls under the Schedule I of protected animals in the Forest and Nature conservation Act. Although poaching of the bear is strictly prohibited, according to the Act, traps or snares are allowed in private registered land like orchards and crop fields. In Bhutan, bears are killed for the bile, which has medicinal value and therefore fetches a good price.

Contributed by Ugyen Penjore and Nima Wangdi,KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2006

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