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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 14:35 GMT
Dramatic rescue for Indian tiger
The tiger leapt powerfully to freedom

Forest guards in India have carried out the dramatic rescue of a pregnant tigress who had hidden in a palm tree after being chased away by villagers.

They tranquilised and then caught the Royal Bengal tigress that had strayed into a village near the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in eastern India.

The animal was released back into the wild after receiving treatment for minor injuries, officials say.

Tigers have been slowly disappearing from India, mostly because of poaching.

Kanti Ganguly, the Sundarbans affairs minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, told the Associated Press news agency that it took officials nearly 14 hours to tranquilise and catch the tiger on Monday.

He said the animal suffered only minor injuries from stones and burning sticks thrown at her by the frightened villagers in Deulbari, about 250km (150 miles) south of the state capital, Calcutta.

Released Royal Bengal tiger
The tiger quickly made for the safety of the forest

Guards nursed her wounds and then took her in a boat to be released deep inside a mangrove reserve on Tuesday.

Officials say that she was only freed after it was felt that she was fit enough to be released into the reserve.

The Sundarbans is a UN designated world heritage site.

It covers nearly 10,000 square kilometres (3,860 square miles) of marshlands and mangrove forests along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, straddling India and Bangladesh.

Correspondents say it is one of the few remaining natural tiger habitats in India.

Tigers have been slowly disappearing from the country because of poaching, a shortage of space, human encroachment on their territory and a lack of properly trained forestry guards.

Incidents of Royal Bengal tigers being attacked by villagers in the Sundarbans are also becoming increasingly commonplace.

The government says India's tiger population has dropped from nearly 3,600 five years ago to about 1,411 today.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Villagers chasing tigress



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