Sunday, April 19, 2009

India: Controversy over killing of pregnant leopard

Killing of leopardess sparks off row

DEHRADUN, April 15: The killing of a pregnant leopardess has triggered controversy and sharp reactions from the wildlife experts in the state, despite reports by the forest staff that the big cat was a man-eater and had been reeking havoc in Chamoli district.
A team of forest staff, led by the official hunter Mr Lakhpat Singh Rawat, killed a seven-year-old leopardess who was later found to be pregnant with two babies. According to the forest officials, the dead leopardess had turned man-eater and had attacked as many as six children in Gairsain and Choukhutiya areas of the state. The leopardess was shot dead by Mr Lakhpat Singh Rawat on Sunday night in the village of Maikholi in Chamoli. The big cat was allegedly about to attack a little boy outside his residence.

The forest department was rejoicing over this killing, until they received a major shock when the postmortem report revealed that the dead leopardess had been carrying two babies in her womb. The team members claimed they had no idea that the animal was pregnant. Expressing remorse over the episode, wildlife experts point out that had the department opted to trap the leopardess instead of shooing her, the lives of two baby leopards could have been saved. Charging the forest officials of having killed the big cat in undue haste, Mr Rajendra Aggarwal of the Wildlife Preservation Society of India (WPSI) claimed that had the officials properly studied the behaviour of the animal, they - as well as the hunter - could have easily ascertained that she was pregnant.

The hunter Mr Rawat, who has killed more than twenty man-eaters, replied that it would have been difficult to judge whether the big cat was pregnant. He said that he could not have taken chances, as the life of an innocent boy was at stake. Justifying this kill to the chief wildlife warden of the state, Mr Srikant Chandola said that the department was under tremendous pressure from the people of the area as the animal had taken away six innocent lives in quick succession. But Pooja, the state head of People for Animals, feels that three animal lives could have been saved had the officials thought on humanitarian grounds and opted to trap the animal instead of going in for the kill. n SNS


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