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Missing toddler survives forest infested with tigers, leopards over four days

How the toddler survived the forests which even grown-ups including defence personnel find it tough to survive remains a wonder.

Published: 05th May 2022 05:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th May 2022 05:15 PM   |  A+A-

Aditi Itgekar with her father Shivaji

Express News Service

BELAGAVI: In what can be described as nothing short of a miracle, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl was found four days after going missing in the dense Chapoli forest of Khanapur in Belagavi district. The forest is known to be treacherous and infested with tigers, leopards, bears, and various other wild animals, besides poisonous reptiles.

The toddler, Aditi Itgekar, was finally found in an unconscious state due to starvation, but except for mosquito bites all over her body, she faced no other health issue, and has returned to normal health on being rescued. How the toddler survived the forests which even grown-ups including defence personnel find it tough to survive remains a wonder.

A decade ago, an IAF helicopter crashed in these forests straddling Karnataka-Goa border near Khanapur. Of the two-man crew, only one was found in an injured state, while the other, who left the crash site to seek help, was never found, assumed to have fallen victim to wild animals.  

Aditi with her parents Shivaji and Sunita had been to their relative Shivaji Hambar’s house at Chirekhani, a village in Chapoli forest, on April 26 morning. The girl, while playing in the backyard, entered the forest, while her parents were inside the house getting ready to attend the temple inauguration. 

Aditi found lying under thick foliage

Panic struck when the parents realised that their toddler was missing. When the news of the missing child spread, the forest and police departments officials were alerted. More than 150 villagers aided the foresters and police personnel in scouting the forests to find the toddler for four days, but in vain. Just as the entire village was giving up hopes of seeing Aditi back alive, a determined group of youths decided to give it one last try on April 29 evening. The group relentlessly and thoroughly combed the stretches that were searched hurriedly earlier.

And they found little Aditi lying under thick vegetation — alive, but unconscious. The spot where the child was found was 1.5 km from the house from where she went missing. The joyous group rushed the girl back to the village and a doctor diagnosed that she was unconscious due to starvation. Over the next two days, she was treated back to normal health.

Several incidents of tigers, elephants, leopards and bears straying into villages have been reported in Khanapur in recent times. A fully-grown tiger which had strayed into areas on the outskirts of Belagavi from Khanapur forests a few years ago had taken a woman away and killed her near Jamboti.

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