Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Leopard caught in Indian farmer's trap dies

Hiral Dave & Sibte Husain Bukhari

Ahmedabad/Junagadh, June 4: A LEOPARD was found dead in Ambaliya Vidi (grassland) in Khambha taluka of Amreli district. After being informed by nearby Rabarika villagers, the Forest Department recovered the carcass trapped in an iron trap on June 2, that is four days after the incident took place. However, forest officials have ruled out the possibility of suspected poaching, and maintained that all the 18 claws, skin and other body parts were intact.

Two months after the first poaching case of the Asiatic lion was reported from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, lives of big cats in and around the sanctuary, continues to be unsafe. The Forest Department, after finding the leopard claws intact, arrested a local farmer, Madhu Patel on Monday, whose house is located near Ambaliya Vidi. According to Deputy Conservator Of Forest (Gir East) V G Rana, the leopard aged about 9 to 10 years was caught in a trap laid by the farmer, and died later. Post-mortem report suggests the animal died of injuries sustained while trying to escape from the trap and also from haemorrhage of heart muscles." There is no possibility of the involvement of any interstate poaching gang," he added.

The Forest Department officials said in order to prevent wild animals from entering the farmhouse, traps are laid by farmers. Be it by poachers or locals, if the latest incident of leopard killing is any indication, the ground situation shows no signs of improvement.

Moreover, CID (Cime), which has been investigating poaching cases here, is not aware about this incident.

When contacted, IG CID (Crime) Keshav Kumar said, "We will have to collect all the details about the dead leopard." Whether the traps show signs of poaching for claws or bones, or locals protecting field and livestock — we need to examine the modus operandi before coming to any definite conclusion," he added.

What has raised the hackles of animal lovers is the fact that the forest department came to know about the leopard only four days after the incident, and that too, only after being informed by the villagers. Though the forest department with 300 beat guards, claims to have increased vigilance following poaching incidents, it has failed to cover the sprawling forest as well the adjoining areas.

Chairman of the Lion Conservation Society of India, Kishor Kotecha said, "The sanctuary is surrounded by 10 talukas. Within a radius of 6 km of the sanctuary, about 128 villages are located. While locals usually help in conservation of big cats, some play nasty, like it seems to have happened in the case of this leopard." Conservator of forest Bharat Pathak was not available for his comments.

Meanwhile, carcass of a semi-adult lion cub aged about two years was found near Undaradiness forest area under Tulshishyam range in Gir east forest division. Officials said it died of natural causes.


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