BINNAGURI - Where Wild Elephants and Leopards roam free

Binnaguri is a lesser known hamlet in the Alipurduar district of North Bengal on the foot hills of western Bhutan. Perhaps the place owes its name to a type of grass known as "binn" growing here  ('guri' being small habitation in local dialect). Its only importance is the Military Station. The area once belonged to the adjoining Tea Estates and was requisitioned by Army some time in 1962.

The Station presents an amazing aura of trees that rise up to the sky proving habitations to birds and animals. Few of the common ones are simul (silk cotton), kathal (jack fruit), sal (sheora robusta), sishoo (Indian mahogany), dumar (cluster fig) and champa (champak). They provide ideal shelter to the avian who during the flowering and fruiting seasons visit to eat pollens, nectars and berries. Birds commonly found are peafowl, grey hornbill, parakeet, golden oriole (both black capped and maroon), drongo, chestnut shaded petronia, Jordon’s bayas (weaver birds), bulbuls, Rufus sulina, spot winged and chest winged starling, hill myna, yellow footed green pigeon, brown headed barbet, oriental magpie robin, laughing thrushes, bulbuls (red vented, black and  red whiskered), common tailor birds,  fin coated barbets, and of course  house crows. One also finds sun bird sucking nectar from the flowers.

Parrots in a nestParrots in a nest 

A lonely soveA lonely sove 

Green pigeon on a dumar tree Green pigeon on a dumar tree

Common house crowCommon house crow                                                                     

The lush green foliage and the grass attract elephants from the surrounding forests. The smell of ripening jack fruit attracts them so also the pineapple in kitchen gardens. During fruiting season herd of elephants visit the station. So far the animals have not harmed any residents or caused any major damage to the property. The army personnel are used to them and some time drive them away bursting crackers and lighting torches. Many come out and watch them from a distance. Both men and elephants live in perfect symbiosis.

On the golf courseOn the golf course

A tusker coming outA tusker coming out

A pairA pair

A herd invadingA herd invading 


Some time, the elephants intrude on the nearby railway line. There has been instance of accidents and the animal either getting injured or dead.

An accident elephantAn accident elephant 

The other animal that often visits the Station is leopard. There are few of them and the Forest Department sets up traps to catch them and rehabilitate in the nearby Gorumara National Park.


Unlike tigers leopards are scavenges and versatile opportunistic hunters. They prowl during the night in human habitations and visit nearby hamlets and villages in search of food - goats, chicken and even leftover food and rest during the day. They rarely become man eaters but attack and maul human beings in self-defense. So far there has been no instance of men and leopard conflict in the Station. I wonder why the predators stray into the Station when they have plenty to kill and survive in the nearby forest. Could be the smaller animals like hares and rats and left over foods thrown by the jawans is the attraction.

Leopards are solitary predators and remain well camouflaged during the day and prowl during the night. They can co-exist with other predators like Bengal tigers, stripped hyenas and dholes (wild dogs). For this reason, the trapped leopards are released in Gorumara National Park for re-habitation.  They prey on chital, sambar, wild boar and small animals like hare, goats and dogs etc.  They are good climbers and drag their kill on tree branches to hide and eat later.

Leopards were first discovered in Bengal in 1794 by Friedrich Meyer - a German doctor and naturalist. There are some differences between leopard and panther though both belong to big cat species (lion, tiger and jaguar). The term panther comes from Greek word pan meaning “all” and ther meaning “beast of prey”. It is the melanistic form (excessive production of melanin) of any of the big cat species making their coat dark or almost black. Thus we have black panther. The word leopard comes from the combination of Greek words for lion and panther. Leopards have yellow fur with rosettes scattered on it. Both are characterised by long body, large head and short legs. Both have the ability to roar and are good climbers.

About Author: Retired Col from the Indian Army. He also wrote 'Saga of Jagannatha' and 'Badadeula at Puri'.

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