The majestic walk since 2 March has come to a brutal end. The tiger, that had strayed into Lalgarh in Bengal’s Midnapore district from a neighbouring forest, has been found dead with multiple wounds, even a spear jutting out of the neck ~ altogether a revolting testament to the scant regard for wild life and forest crime from North to South Bengal, via the Sundarbans.

For more than a month, the state’s forest department was at sixes and sevens, and Friday’s nemesis has thrown up the lack of professionalism, indeed to tranquillise the creature ~ a symbol of forest wealth ~ and drive it back to the jungle, there to live in a natural and familiar environment. Not that it was not sighted; far from using the tranquilliser gun, the forest guards are reported to have fled when the tiger fell into a culvert recently.

The department has come through as a bumbling entity; even the final and fatal assault by villagers went unnoticed by the rangers. Reports suggest that those trained in tranquillising tigers are based in North Bengal; curiously they were not involved in the Lalgarh operation. Forest experts, notably a former head of the Sundarbans tiger programme of the World Wildlife Fund, suggest that the cardinal mistake was to have used “live bait” in an effort to catch the tiger alive.

To say this is only to be wise after the event. More accurately, there was time enough for the authorities to devise a carefully calibrated strategy. It wasn’t. Nor for that matter was the department aware that a tiger can scarcely be attracted by a “live bait” if it is not hungry. It is the smell of rotten flesh that draws the tiger. In the event, the proverbial curiousity didn’t kill the cat.

Precious time was wasted in idle speculation ~ whether it was a maneater or was on the lookout for food. As it turned out, it was able to dodge the traps; one of these was even knocked down by elephants. It was pretty obvious from the pugmarks that the tiger was roaming around the traps.

The professional foresters could well have followed through on the basis of the indicators. Once again, they didn’t. Palpably, there was little or no anxiety to track down the creature… for its onward journey to the jungle.

Its life could have been saved. Bengal’s forest wealth is the poorer with the death of the tiger, not to forget the poaching in the Sundarbans and elephants repeatedly being flung to death by zooming trains in North Bengal ~ where there appears to be no coordination between the forest department and the Railways. Wild life deserves better… not occasional platitudes on the subject. To draw an analogy from Bert Hanstra’s film, the Superape has killed the Ape.