Saturday, April 11, 2009

India: Locals enter forest, kill leopard

5 Apr 2009, 2209 hrs IST, Wasim Rahman, TNN

SIVASAGAR: The man-animal conflict is getting bloodier by the day. In yet another gruesome show of human brutality, locals on Saturday evening killed a three-year-old female leopard after it had injured two villagers.

According to the forest department, the incident happened in Maduri Molagaon under Nazira police station in the district forest range. Forest officials said two youths called Bipul Kumar Gogoi (16) and Raju Gogoi (26) had strayed into the nearby forest in the afternoon when the leopard attacked them. Seriously injured, both had to be admitted to Nazira government hospital.

On hearing about the attack, a large group of villagers went inside the forest. Armed with sticks, the locals beat the leopard to death. Some even tried to mutilate the carcass and cut its legs. But a joint team of police and forest staff reached the spot and seized the big cat's body.

"The leopard was killed before forest officials and police teams reached the spot, which is about 15 kms away from Nazira," assistant conservator of forests (Sivasagar) Ranjit Kumar Das told TOI. "The injured duo is out of danger. The forest department has lodged an FIR with the Nazira police station," he added.

"If the killing was in self-defence, there would be no case, but if investigations point to foul play, action could be taken against the villagers," the ACF warned.

The forest official further said the animal's legs were slightly damaged. "The villagers were trying to cut them off. But the moment they saw a police party and forest guards coming, they fled," he added.

This is the fourth incident of leopard casualty in upper Assam this year. In the past two years, about 20 big cats have been killed in upper Assam. What is most disturbing for the forest department and wildlife activists is that more and more people are now killing leopards to consume its meat.

The tolerance level of humans towards big cats is diminishing. Sources cite rising demand for its skin, nails and other body parts in south-east Asian markets and the blind belief that leopard meat rids people of diseases as reasons why some people are engaged in this killing business.

"Since, the animal's habitat has shrunk rapidly owing to encroachment, leopards often stray into human settlements in search of food (domestic cattle/ poultry)," said a source.


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