'I let the leopard bite me, didn't pull my arm from its jaw'

Submitted by Subeditor on Tue, 2016-02-09 22:33 Bengaluru: He had bid adieu to his mother when she boarded the bus to Tumkur, enroute to Gubbi. Moments later, at around 4.10 pm, there was an SOS from the forest department, requesting him to rush to the Vibgyor School in Marathahalli where a leopard had been sighted.Sanjay Gubbi reached the school at 5.15 and immediately got into action to sedate and capture the eight-year-old cat, which had apparently strayed from the Anekal range of the Bannerghatta national park. Little did the popular wildlife biologist realise that he would be a victim of the very beast he had set out to save in Karnataka’s fragmented forests.Had all the precautionary measures been taken, Gubbi would probably not been mauled and impaired by the panic-stricken leopard.He had asked the authorities to call for an ambulance and fire engine. He had asked the police to impose Section 144, which prohibits five or more people assembling at one place. He had requested the school authorities to empty the swimming pool, keeping in mind that the leopard could drown in the water after being tranquilised. His requests went unheeded.By 6.30 pm, he had been mauled twice by the frazzled feline which desperately tried to escape from the pandemonium caused by the 5000-strong nosy parkers and a bevy of byte-seeking TV journalists. Profusely bleeding and in a state of shock, a good samaritan, thankfully, whisked him away to a local hospital.In an emergency, the doctor ought to apply his mind to the critical situation. But to Gubbi’s misfortune, a gastroenterologist was on call at the casualty. Without assessing the gravity of the injury, the so-called specialist started suturing each gash. Each time blood oozed from his forearm, the ‘Doc’ sutured the gaping wound again. He should he given the Padma Shri!Realising the futility, Gubbi requested the doctor that he be referred to another hospital. To add insult to injury, Apollo Clinic refused to release him until the bill was settled. He had lost his purse in the leopard attack. Thankfully, someone volunteered to bail Gubbi out.It was around 9.45 pm when he was taken to Columbia Asia hospital in Varthur. A team of doctors operated upon Gubbi until 1 am, before he was shifted to the ICU. He had sustained as many as 16 bites on the right hip. The right arm bore several canine incisions. A bone had been chipped.Presence of mind saved Gubbi from fatal injuries. Had he resisted the attack, the leopard could have ripped apart the flesh on his arm and severed the vein. “I allowed it to bite without trying to pull my arm from its jaw. Had I resisted, the injuries could have been more severe,” said Gubbi, frequently shifting in his bed to avoid putting pressure on the wound on his right hip.If Apollo Clinic had demanded money for his release, the insurance company ridiculously asked if he had really been attacked by an animal. Eventually, Gubbi was told that he wasn’t insured against animal attacks! Why do we have health insurance then?With another surgery scheduled for Friday, depending on how the injuries have healed, Gubbi’s medical bill could exceed rupees five lakh or more. It would be good if the Karnataka forest department, which sought his expertise to capture their stray leopard, contributes.But when it does not reimburse the medical and legal fees borne by its wildlife staff, will the KFD help Gubbi?For now, let’s pray fervently that Gubbi overcomes his trauma and gets back to doing what he loves to do best: wildlife conservation.