“The water buffaloes saved me”
Last year, 67-year-old Mayaram Khanal from Geruwa Rural Municipality in Bardia was grazing his buffaloes near the National Park. Suddenly, a tiger attacked Khanal hurling him about 10m away. It then leaped down to finish him off when, incredibly, Khanal’s two water buffaloes came to his rescue. They swung their formidable horns at the tiger, chasing it away and saving Khanal’s life. The buffaloes are now treated like heroes in the village.
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In all of these close encounters with tigers, the lives of the people who survived went through a transformation.
When Bhadai Tharu lost his eye, he was angry at the tiger making him disabled, and was determined to take revenge. “It was fate, but I thought if I saw that tiger again, I would kill it,” Tharu remembers thinking. “I was also angry at the people for not coming to my rescue earlier. But as my wounds healed, my anger diminished.”
Bhadai Tharu is now a tiger conservationist, seeing the forest habitat as a place where animals and people have to co-exist. “Tigers are vanishing as their habitats shrink, and when the tiger attacked me, it was just doing so to protect itself from danger,” he says.
Today, Tharu trains locals in conservation practices, and provides educational material to local schools. He has also persuaded many poachers and smugglers to abandon their profession. They threatened to shoot him, but he seems to have lost all fear. He has even created inspection patrols to curb smuggling of tiger parts.
It was all because of his near-death experience. “If I had not been attacked by that tiger, I would not be saving tigers. I came to understand them better and it became my duty to save them.”