Friday, March 13, 2009

India: Poison cloud over leopard death

Golaghat’s Borchapori estate records third such ‘killing’ in a year


Guwahati, March 13: A carcass of a female leopard was recovered from Borchapori tea estate in Golaghat district this morning. Forest officials maintained that the animal had been poisoned by garden labourers.

A.S. Gill, the manager of Borchapori tea estate, located near Kaziranga National Park and the Karbi Anglong hills, found the carcass this morning and informed the forest department.

This is the third instance of leopard poisoning in the tea estate within a year. Late last year two leopards were found dead inside the tea estate and poisoning was found to be the cause of death.

In the nearby Lokhowjan tea estate, two leopards died of poisoning last year. Labourers in these tea gardens alleged that the animals were becoming a menace for their cattle.

A forest official at Golaghat said there was no injury mark on the carcass of the leopard that died today. “It appears like a case of poisoning since there is no injury mark. We have sent the carcass for post mortem,” divisional forest officer N. Anand said.

“Strong male leopards sometimes kill the female if the latter does not cooperate in mating,” he said, adding that this could not have been the case because there were no injury marks.

Another forest official said leopards frequently stray into these tea estates from Kaziranga National Park and the Karbi Anglong hills in search of food. “Tea garden labourers are in constant conflict with leopards,” he added.

Gill said the garden authorities were ready to hold awareness campaigns among the labour community to protect wildlife. “We are ready to work along with the forest department on this,” he said, admitting that there were instances when leopards do attack cattle belonging to the labour community of the tea estate.

Forest officials said leopards have found a haven in tea estates across Upper Assam in recent times following depletion of forest cover. Such has been the situation in some tea estates that work get hampered as labourers fear to venture into the garden to pluck leaves out of fear.

Last year, activities at Helekha tea estate near the Assam-Nagaland border in Jorhat district came to a standstill for several days as two leopards made it their home. The forest department later captured both the animals.

Hatikhuli tea estate, near the Kaziranga National Park, has given up the use of fertilisers since animals from the national park stray inside the estate frequently. Two Royal Bengal tiger calves died after consuming pesticides early last year.


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