Pilikula mourns as ‘Raja’ kills caretaker
- The Bengal tiger and Kushalappa Gowda arrived at zoo in 2004
Mangalore, 01 August 2012: The ever-lively Pilikula Nisargadhama wore a gloomy look and remained closed on Wednesday after one of its animal caretaker Kushalappa Gowda (36) was killed in a tiger attack on Tuesday evening.
Gowda, who used to feed the tigers, had visited the tiger enclosure to check on ‘Raja,’ Pilikula’s oldest Bengal Tiger who was suffering with diarrhea and was under medication.However, a bold step by Gowda cost his life. In spite of not being not allowed to open the main-gate of the enclosure, Gowda opened it and even opened the gate of the squeezer cage (place where sick tigers are treated) and went inside. Raja, mauled Gowda who died due to extensive bleeding caused by the injury.
It is surprising to note that the tiger did not escape from the enclosure even if the main gate was open. The incident came into light when two other caretakers found the main gate open and saw the tiger sitting in the enclosure passage. They repeatedly called Kushalappa, only to realise that he was lying dead inside the tiger’s cage.
Speaking to Dr Shivaram Karanth Pilikula Biological Park Director H Jayaprakash Bhandary said that putting the tiger back in the enclosure was a huge task. We had to open another tiger’s enclosure from outside, send that tiger in the open area and put Raja inside the cage.
“Only after that, we could go near Kushalappa’s body. There was blood all over but the tiger had not eaten the body,” points out Bhandary.
“Kushalappa was very friendly with animals. He was a sincere employee. He joined Pilikula in 2004, the same year when tiger’s were introduced in Pilikula. He had many interesting experiences and I had also advised him to write a book. His death is a great loss," says Bhandary.
"We used to call him Pili-Kushala. He was a jolly fellow," recalled Chetan, who is Gowda’s neighbour in his hometown Kalinja in Vittal. He was a courageous man and always in the fore-front, he adds.
Gowda’s brother-in-law Uday said that Gowda was a bachelor and had toiled hard to marry off his four sisters. Recentlty, he showed interest in marrying and told us to find a suitable match. "I never thought that he would be killed by a tiger. He had a very good knack with animals," he adds.
Kushalappa is survived by his mother Revathi, father Shivappa Gowda and four sisters.
One of the workers from the zoo says that Kushalappa was supposed to visit his father on Monday evening. However, he stayed back as Raja was keeping ill. He was supposed to leave on Wednesday evening, but god has his own plans, he says. He also points out that Kushalappa had a peaceful look on his face even at his death. You feel like he is smiling, he adds.
Kushalappa’s family will receive Rs 1 lakh as compensation from Pilikula Nisargadhama and another Rs 1 lakh from his insurance. The Deputy Commissioner has also assured to request for compensation from CM’s fund, said Bhandary.
Pilikula Nisargadhama was not open for the public on Wednesday due to the tragic incident. An Aaati festival which was supposed to be held on Wednesday was cancelled.The postmortem of Kushalappa’s mortal remains was held at Wenlock hospital. The funeral ceremony was held in his hometown Kalinja. A case has been filed in Kavoor police station.
Majestic ‘Raja’ weighs 260 kgs
Raja, Pilikula’s 15-year-old Bengal Tiger is a majestic animal, says Bhandary. The tiger weighing 260 kgs was brought to the Pilikula zoo in 2004 from Shimoga Zoo. Incidentally, he was also the mascot for the Tiger Day celebrations, held at Pilikula on Sunday.
Everyday, Raja used to consume 10 kgs of meat and 1 kg of chicken, the highest compared to other tigers. It usually has a good temperament. However, recently it was ailing with diarrhea and was under treatment for the past four days, says Bhandary who adds that it has completely recovered.
Pilikula has three female and five male tigers. Raja and Vikram and Sharawathi were brought from Shimoga Zoo. Kadamba, Kumara, Netravathi , Shambavi and Krishna were born in captivity at Pilikula zoo, says Bhandary.