27 May, 2007 - 0213 hrs IST - TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NAGPUR: A full-grown female leopard that had fallen into a farm well in a village between Khapri-Thana, around 22 kilometres from the city, died on on Saturday after a rescue operation by the forest department allegedly went awry and a tranquilliser dart struck the animal in the 'vulnerable' spinal chord. Officials have, however, attributed the death to 'fracture of the animal's vertebral column.'
On Saturday, around 8.30 am, the leopard was spotted by a farm worker in the well. The scared worker immediately informed the forest department and a rescue team headed by A L Sonkusre, RFO, and Gopal Thosar, district wildlife warden, rushed to the spot around 10 am.
According to Thosar, the female leopard, around 12 years old, must have strayed into the farm in search of a kill. Several monkeys frequent the well and the leopard may have fallen inside after an attempt to kill a monkey went wrong. The 15-foot deep well didn't have much water.
Naresh Zurmure, deputy conservator of forests (DCF), Nagpur, quoted the post-mortem saying the leopard died after its backbone fractured after felling in the rocky well. "We did our best to save the animal but we couldn't do it," he remarked. "It was alive when we lifted it from the well. The leopard died while being taken to Butibori for treatment," he added.
The animal was quite healthy and was roaring when the rescue operation was going on. Even after the first tranquilliser dart was shot, the leopard 'walked around the edge of the water inside the well,' said an eye-witness.
However, the leopard collapsed after the being hit by the second dart, informed Zurmure. An eyewitness said district collector Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, who was present at the scene, too exclaimed that the second dart had hit the animal in the 'wrong area.' "An unskilled van majoor fired the tranquilliser dart. The entire operation was carried out without the mandatory presence of a veterinarian," the eyewitness added.
NGOs and prominent persons blamed the forest officials for the mess and demanded action for their failure to save the wild cat which is already facing steep decline in its population.
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