Monday, December 04, 2006

Leopards in India: Saving the hunted and the hunter

Vaishali Balajiwale
Sunday, December 03, 2006 22:13 IST

NASHIK: The forest department in Nashik is in a spot. They have to both protect humans from panther attacks as well as protect panthers from human attacks. Four persons have been attacked and killed by panthers, while a panther has been beaten to death by villagers in Nashik.

One panther has also been rescued by the forest dept recently. The 2005 wildlife census estimated that there are 14 panthers in the western region of Nashik.

In the last ten days, reports of panthers being spotted near villages have become common. Villagers in Surgana taluka are living in fear after panthers attacked two women and a young boy and took away stray dogs and goats.

On November 21, Chandrabai Chintaman Bhoye was working in a farm in the mountainous terrain inside the Bevaldari jungle in Surgana. Her son Sunil went searching for her when she did not return till late night. The body of Chanrabai was found in a nullah 500ft away. She had been attacked and killed by a panther. When the police came to the village for panchnama, there were reports of another woman, Lawangabai Pandu Gavit (35), killed by a panther at Bhadar in Surgana region.

The third incident of the wild cat’s attack was on November 23 in Patali village in Surgana taluka. Hiraman Kamdi (20) was attacked by a panther when he was returning to his home. Hiraman was quick to dodge the cat and shouted for help. He escaped.

These incidents have left the people in the region frightened. The forest department has told people not to move alone at night. But they are also trying to save the beast from the angry villagers.

When Chander Shevare and his wife were chased by a panther when they were in a jungle, they ran in different directions. While the lady ran in towards the village, her husband ran towards the jungle. She managed to tell the villagers who armed themselves with sticks and stones and entered the jungle. They found the body of Chander, hunted down the panther and killed it.

“We are in a tight situation. Human life is important but it is also our duty to protect wild life and we are trying our best to save both,” says Uday Avsak, deputy conservator of forest, Nashik.

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