At least 14 villagers including women and children have fallen victims of attacks by a wild animal, which local people called is mysterious, in Palashbari of northern Gaibandha district recently.
One of the victims died at a Rangpur hospital on October 18, about three weeks after he had been bitten by the unknown animal, according to local journalists.
Ferdous Islam Ruku, imam of a Gaibandha mosque, was attacked on September 29 and sent home after he was given treatment including rabies vaccine. He was taken to the hospital later when he suddenly fell ill and eventually died there.
All these attacks took place in a month between October 29 and November 1, journalist Kaysar Rahman Romel said.
The conditions of other victims are said to be stable and they have been given rabies jabs.
Panic gripped the locals so much so that people of Taluk Kewabari, Harinathpur, Kishamat Kewabari, Khamar Balua, Dulalervita, and Talukjamira villages have armed themselves with sticks and other handmade weapons to save human life by killing wildlife.
At least three foxes were lynched in these villages in October.
Wildlife experts have, however, ruled out presence of any unknown, murderous animal in the bushes of Gaibandha.
The officials of the Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Department from Dhaka and Rajshahi made the conclusion after conducting raids in the bushes of several villages.
“The talk of a dangerous ‘unknown’ animal is just a myth. We’ve found the existence of Asiatic golden jackals, which are generally harmless species unless provoked,”Md Jahangir Kabir, a member of the team of experts, told The Financial Express.
He explained that since this is the breeding season, these animals have a tendency of becoming ‘a bit more protective’.
However, the expert thinks that there may be any rabies-infected fox which was behind the recent attacks.
The local people might have been misguided by rumours that ‘a murderous animal is out wandering in an adjacent village’ and killed the fox they found.
“This needs to stop,” Mr Jahangir Kabir said. Asked about the death of the imam, he pointed out that the person died almost a month after the attack, so it is hard to prove any correlation between the cause of death and the incident.
The wildlife experts have distributed 500 leaflets, asking the people not to panic or show aggression towards wild animals.
The villagers have also been advised to vaccinate their pets against rabies and if bitten, contact doctors for necessary medication.