In yet another instance of man-animal conflict, a sloth bear mauled three tribals to death and seriously injured three others in the Chandrapur forest on Saturday morning, an official said.
The bear was later shot dead by a forest official.
While a woman, Ranjana Ambadas Raut, 56, of Kitali village, was killed on the spot, Bisan Soma Kulmethe, 45, and Farukh Yusuf Shaikh, 31, succumbed to their serious injuries in a local government hospital.
Brahmapuri Division's Deputy Forest Officer Kulraj Singh said the incident occurred around 8 a.m. when a group of tribals went deep into the forest to collect 'tendu' leaves.
"The bear attacked the tribals, killing the woman and seriously wounding two others. Two other injured climbed a tree to save themselves, while one seriously wounded tribal lay nearby," Kulraj Singh told IANS.
As the bear did not budge from beneath the tree on which the two injured had taken refuge and thereby prevented their rescue, Nagpur's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Sinha ordered the animal's killing.
Forest Officer Ajay Marathe thereafter shot dead the animal.
Deceased Bisan's son Sachin, 25, is undergoing treatment at the Chandrapur Civil Hospital while Veena Dudharam Raut, 35, and her son Kunal, 16 have been rushed to a government hospital in Nagpur for treatment, the Deputy Forest Officer said.
He said an autopsy on the bear will be performed on Sunday.
Designated a 'vulnerable species' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Switzerland, sloth bear is native to the Indian sub-continent -- found in India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, with less than 20,000 surviving in the wild.
Expert hunter and usually insectivorous with a diet supplemented by forest fruit and plants, an adult sloth bear can weight up to 130 kg and grow more than six feet tall.
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