Surat: On May 20, 2007, the labourers in Kasadi village of Mandvi taluka set fire to the sugarcane farms, thereby unwittingly killing two newborn leopard cubs. The mother of the cubs is now on the prowl in the region, looking for her newborns.
Later on May 26 leopard enters Samba village of Mahuva taluka and carries away a 12-year-old from his house. The boy's mauled body was found the next day.
There has been a rise in such incidents of friction between man and leopards in this region. Leopards are commonplace in the region and villagers, in a panic reaction, have decided to kill the leopards whenever they are spotted near the village.
"One month back I was attacked by the leopard from behind and I ran to save my life fortunately I met villagers and they saved my life," says a resident of Samba village, Jayantibhai.
The killings have put the forest department in a tight spot. Though official figures put a number of leopards at 32 but sightings show that there may be as many as 100 leopards in close proximity to human habitat. Depleting forest cover has meant the big cats are now looking for game in the villages.
The Forest department has installed special cages to catch errant animals and are patrolling the Dang forest which is the natural habiatat of the leopards. The Department is also conducting awareness programmes so that the villagers do not kill the leopards that stray into the sugarcane fields.
"There's always a fear because the leopard is a violent animal. But that's not true for all of them," says Conservator of Surat Forest R J Asari.
With efforts like these forest department now hopes it will be able to save the leopards and also safeguard the interests of the panic-stricken villagers.