The pitch black darkness of the night was broken by the glow of lanterns, It appeared that someone was walking along the embankment. The faint rustling of the receding waters from the canal was the only audible sound. People of the village had locked their doors right after sundown, no one dares to venture out at night especially since the man-eater has been up and about. Even if people do need to go out, the embankment is taboo as it lies just beside the canal, separating the village from the forest. A 50ft gap that the Tiger crosses easily every night when it enters the village.
As the light approaches some figures become visible, some men with sticks and you can barely make out some scrawny looking dogs at their heel. The lead dog suddenly stops and turns towards the forest. As if by clockwork all the other 4 do the same. The handlers immediately stop and hold up the lanterns as if to shed some light into the dark foliage on the opposite bank. The quiet night seems to have fallen ever more silent. The lead dog, Bullet utters a low muffled growl which is picked up by the other canines as well. The whole demeanor of the group changes as you can almost feel that something is in the air – nervous tension, an anticipation of things to come. The dogs seem transfixed on the other bank, looking intently as if to see something in the dark. Sure enough they must’ve picked up on the scent of something.
Suddenly following Bullet’s lead the whole pack breaks out barking. The almost deafening crescendo piercing the death of the night. As if on cue the human handlers started shouting, at the top of their lungs while stomping the ground with their sticks and feet. It was as if, all hell had broken loose. Amidst the deafening sounds the lead handler Shubol, shines his torch on the darkness of opposite bank. After a few sweeps it stops at some Goran bushes. Sure enough two red orbs shine back at the group. It’s a Tiger all right. The striped terror of Chandpai.
At the sight of the Tiger, or more so it’s eyes, the barking and shouting seemed to jump many folds. As if to silence the usurpers a heavy set growl returned from the other side. However neither courageous dogs nor their brave handlers seemed to let up. While Bullet held his ground, Tom and Som, the two brothers strained at the leash, as if lunging to have a go at the mighty beast, on the other side. Bittu and Sheikh, the rear guard were a few steps behind but were no less menacing, in their display.
Slowly the orbs on the other side started to move, disappearing from time to time only to reappear a few yards away. Both tiger hounds and their handlers moved, along the embankment, parallel to the forest. At one point, the Tiger let out a deafening roar as if to silence the group once and for all, you can almost just imagine its surprise, when not only did they not let up, rather they seemed to press on harder.
As suddenly as it appeared, the orbs were gone and slowly but surely you could make out the decline in the intensity of the barking and shouting. After a few minutes it stopped altogether. The dogs appeared relaxed and Som and Sheikh sat down on their haunches. Only the sound of panting and heavy breathing could now be heard. The Tiger was gone. Both dogs and handlers seemed to be relaxed and the only visible signs of the tense moments before, were the sweaty foreheads of the handlers and heavy breathing of the dogs.
The tiger hounds of Chandpai had warded off the troublesome Tiger for the night leaving villagers to sleep in peace. The team of 5 brave handlers and their even braver dogs armed only with sticks, lanterns and flashlights, had stopped a Bengal Tiger that had already earned the reputation of being a “Man eater”, in its tracks and saved the villagers of Chandpai and their livestock for one more night.
This innovative initiative was one of several initiatives taken by Dr. Adam Barlow and Monirul of the “Tiger Response Team” of “The Sunder Bans Tiger Project” in reducing Human, tiger conflict on the villages in the fringes of the largest mangrove forest of the world, The Sunder Bans.
The base of operations was the village of Chandpai, right on the edge of the forest, separated only by a canal. Mariel, an experienced dog trainer from the U.S. was brought in to start the Tiger hound project. After extensive search from among dozens of local village dogs, 5 dogs were chosen, all alpha males. The first barrier was to get the dogs to work with each other, as being Alpha males they were highly dominant and frequent fights broke out. Once the animals were socialized, their actual training began. Both the handlers and dogs received extensive training, first on obedience which w as a hurdle as these dogs had never been trained even on the basics. After they graduated they were shown their first Tiger, a captive animal at a Zoo. Tom and Som, the two brothers had been most impressive and within minutes, the other dogs nervous at first joined in and ultimately the tiger behind bars was visibly nervous. Mariel left after completion of the training, giving leadership of the pack to star dog Bullet and his handler Shubol.
Now the people of Chandpai sleep a lot better because they know that the Tiger hounds and their handlers are out on patrol. The initiative showed just how some scrawny, scuffed up local dogs from a small village on the south of Bangladesh could be trained to stand their ground and ward off a mighty animal as a Tiger. The small but strong line of defense of the helpless people of an impoverished village, against a terror of the night, a man-eating tiger of the Sunder Bans.
*Note: The incident described is a work of fiction based on the Tiger hounds of the Sunder Bans.