Saturday, June 20, 2009

India: Tea estates are leopard-human conflict zone

Tea labourers kill leopard

Guwahati, June 19: A leopard, unable to fend for itself since its separation from its mother nearly a year ago, was killed by labourers of a tea estate in Upper Assam this morning after it attacked six women.

Panic-stricken workers of Socklating tea estate in Jorhat district killed the two-year-old male leopard after it attacked six women labourers around 11am. The injured are recuperating at Jorhat civil hospital.

The tea estate is located near the district's boundary with Golaghat.

The killing took place barely three months after a leopard was poisoned to death by the labourers of Barchapori tea estate.

The leopard killed today was not fully grown. It was a cub when it escaped from the Assam Agricultural University campus last year.

The forest staff had caged its mother and another sibling but later released them at Gibbon wildlife sanctuary.

A forest official at the Jorhat division said the leopard today stealthily came out of tea bushes when the women labourers were plucking tea leaves.

"When the women raised the alarm, it attacked and injured six of them."

As the news spread, the labourers hunted for the leopard, fearing that it could go on a killing spree after having tasted human blood.

"The leopard was finally located in a drain in the tea estate. The animal was killed instantly with sticks and whatever they (the labourers) could lay their hands on," the official said.

He said a case had been registered but no arrest would be made "since the killing was carried out in self-defence".

The official said the leopard, which was not fully grown, was finding it difficult to fend for itself since it was separated from its mother.

"Not deft in hunting, the leopard was preying on domestic cattle," he added.

Tea estates in Assam have turned into a conflict zone between leopards and humans with over 10 big cats being killed by labourers in Jorhat district alone in the last three years.


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