Jun 4, 2007
The forests of the Sunderbans conceal many mysteries. It has now thrown up a new challenge to zoologists in the form of the remains of an 'unknown' animal that was accidentally unearthed by a farmer and his daughter on May 26.
The remains of an animal - around 11-foot-long and some five feet wide - are lying in a house of Santosh Mandol at the nondescript Manmathanagar in Gosaba's Bipradaspur village. Santosh and his youngest daughter Shubha stumbled upon the bones while digging the banks of the pond adjacent to their house.
"My daughter saw something jutting out of the ground. When I turned to see what it was, I hit my leg against something hard. I tried to pull it out but it wouldn't budge. Then, I dug up the place and took it out," said Santosh.
Intrigued, the family kept digging the area for the next three days. Bones came tumbling out. They ended up unearthing more than 150 pieces of all shapes and sizes.
Forest department officials have already visited the village and seen the bones. However, they have not been able to identify the animal. "It doesn't appear to be the remains of a crocodile or of a rhinoceros. We can rule out elephants as they never existed in the Sunderbans. I have asked the Zoological Survey of India to go to the village and find out," said principal chief conservator of forest Atanu Raha. A fossil of a rhinoceros was found in Chhoto Mollakhali a few years ago.
Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly has also been informed about the findings.
Initially, Santosh had thrown away the bones. But a local homoeopath, Mukut Mohan Biswas, saw the bones and asked Santosh to preserve these. Biswas brought the matter to the notice of Uttam Saha, an anthropologist and schoolteacher.
Saha informed the Gosaba police station about the findings. "When I saw the bones, I realised they weren't remains of animals that are found in this region. I was really taken aback by the shape of the limbs. The hind legs are bigger than the forelegs. Only experts can identify this animal. We want them to visit our village and find out the truth for us," said Saha.
He had asked Santosh to keep digging. Within three days, they had dug out almost the entire carcass apart from the skull. "It must be buried somewhere deep. These people are not experts and were digging as they wished. This might have damaged the bones. We didn't want to take any risks," Saha said.
The news spread like wildfire. Since last Monday, there have been a steady flow of visitors. His wife Draupadi is tired though. "Hundreds of people are coming every day. We can't even go to the fields," said Draupadi. People are flocking to their home from fur-flung islands to have a look at the bones. And there are already complaints of theft. Santosh complains that a few teeth have gone missing.
Police are keeping a watch on Santosh's house. "We have asked the local police to monitor the situation and ensure that nothing goes missing," said South 24-Parganas SP S N Gupta.