A tiger on Malabar Hill

A tiger on Malabar Hill
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First Published: Fri, Sep 04 2009. 09 53 PM IST

 Flora and fauna: (left to right) A painting shows a tiger entering a village; a painting of a Pink-headed Duck, a bird that was common in Mumbai in the 1920s; and a painting by J.P. Irani. Photograph
Flora and fauna: (left to right) A painting shows a tiger entering a village; a painting of a Pink-headed Duck, a bird that was common in Mumbai in the 1920s; and a painting by J.P. Irani. Photograph
Updated: Fri, Sep 04 2009. 09 53 PM IST
A large tiger was shot in the vicinity of the Vehar Lake, Salsette on Tuesday, January 22, 1929. The animal was killed by Mr. J.J. Sutari, to whom I am indebted for the following particulars. Mr. Sutari and a party of friends were out after the usual type of game the Salsette jungles provide, which is mainly wild boar. They took up their positions in the vicinity of the south end of the lake shortly after sunset and waited for something to turn up. Towards 10 p.m. Mr. Sutari’s attention was aroused by the sounds of some animal approaching. One can well imagine his astonishment when a tiger walked out of the shadows into the moonlight. The tiger came steadily on, when at a distance of 12 yards, Sutari fired his 12-bore loaded with ball and dropped the animal in his tracks. The tiger in question, a straggler from the main land, probably crossed over by swimming the Thana Creek. An animal doing so would find immediate shelter in the jungles which cover the hilly portions of Salsette.
Flora and fauna: (left to right) A painting shows a tiger entering a village; a painting of a Pink-headed Duck, a bird that was common in Mumbai in the 1920s; and a painting by J.P. Irani. Photographs courtesy Bombay Natural History Society
Tigers appear to have been fairly plentiful in Salsette at the end of the eighteenth century. Hector MacNeil (Archaelogia, vol. vii, 1873) tells us that in 1761 “the Governor and most of the gentlemen of Bombay used to go annually on a pleasure party to Salsette to hunt Wild Boar and Royal Tiger both of which were found there in great plenty.” Records of the occurrence of tiger in these islands during the nineteenth century are few and far between. In 1806, two tigers were seen near General Macpherson’s bungalow at Kurla, while a few days previously two persons were carried off from a village a little further north, it is presumed by the same animals. On February 9, 1822, a tiger on Malabar Hill came down and quenched its thirst at Gowalia Tank and ran off up the hill between the Hermitage and Prospect Lodge. The imprint of its feet were clearly visible the next morning (Bombay Courrier, February 10, 1822). The Bombay Courrier of December 1829 records the sudden appearance of a tiger at Mazagon, the animal apparently swam across the harbour and landed near the ruined Mazagon fort. It was driven into the compound of Mr. Henshaw’s bungalow where it was eventually shot by the guard of the Dockyard and several Arabs. It measured 8’ 8”. On March 2, 1858, the crew of the steamer Aden killed a large tiger which was swimming across to Mazagon from the opposite shore. The animal attempted to board a small boat and was kept off with hand pikes by the lascars. It was eventually dispatched with “six balls through its head”. (Bombay Times, March 6, 1858). In May of the same year a tiger was killed in Mahim woods by a young Portuguese, while on January 26, 1863, another tiger was killed at Mahim after mauling a Parsi cart-owner and committing other damage. (Bombay Times, January 27, 1863). James Douglas (Bombay and Western India) writing about tigers in Salsette gives an amusing narrative of a “traveller (was it Silk Buckingham?) in Salsette who was suddenly surprised by his palkee being dropped and the coolies bolting. The palkee was closed, and he soon felt outside the Jhilmils something of a fee-faw-fum character. Stripes was wide awake and the coolies, up a tree, were wide awake also. He didn’t sleep much that night I tell you.” In 1907, a tiger was shot at Pir Pau, Trombay, near Sandow Castle by Mr. Mullan of the Bombay Port Trust. This with the one cited above are the most recent records.
Living Jewels of Indian Jungle, published by BNHS, 204 pages, Rs1,600. The pre-publication price of the book, to be ordered from BNHS directly by 12 September, is Rs1,000. For details, call 022-22821811.
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First Published: Fri, Sep 04 2009. 09 53 PM IST
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