30 October 2009, 05:02am IST
NAGPUR: The principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, A K Joshi, has authorised shooting of a 'man-eater' leopard moving near Sangvi village in Akole forest range of Sangamner territorial division in Ahmednagar district. In 2007, a problem tiger was shot dead in Talodhi (Chandrapur).
According to forest department sources, the leopard has killed two children in Sangvi village and has injured a dozen people. The frequent killings by the animal led to law & orders problem and even the Ahmednagar district collector wrote to the PCCF to grant permission to shoot the leopard.
On October 15, at 7 am, Pratik Rajendra Binnar (3), was picked up from Keli village and his body was dragged four kms by the animal. It was found on October 16 with its head missing. The leopard had also eaten other body parts. On October 26, at 5.30 am, two-year-old son of Tukaram Pathwe was picked from near his house by the same leopard. The same day, another kid was seriously injured by it. The boy is in coma and battling for life.
Forest officials told TOI that after the first incident, efforts to cage the leopard failed as the animal came near the cage but did not enter it. Attempts to net it also failed. The CCF (Nashik) V K Mohan had sought permission from chief wildlife warden to shoot the problem animal following tremendous pressure from the villagers. However, forest officials were asked to take all steps like tranquillising and monitoring the leopard, before issuing orders to shoot it. On Tuesday, angry villagers did not allow forest staff to enter the area unless orders to shoot the leopard were issued. They had also detained a couple of foresters.
Joshi, who is in Nashik to monitor the situation, said: "I issued orders on October 27 to shoot the animal. We tried our level best to drive it away from the villages and laid traps for it but were not successful. The situation has now gone out of our hands as the leopard is seen frequently near the villages. Sharp shooters from police department will now carry out the order."
Vidya Athyera, an expert working to rehabilitate problem leopards in Ahmednagar, justified PCCF's decision as leopard was showing strange behaviour. "I have relocated many leopards in the area but the one in Sangvi seems to be rabid. Accidental attacks could be understood you have to do something when children in villages are being killed. The leopard has also consumed body parts," she told TOI.
Athyera said the area where the leopard is moving has no forests but dry hillocks. Prey base is zero and leopards mostly depend on goats, sheep, pigs and dogs. The pugmarks show it's a sub-adult and all the attacks had taken place in four km area. The strange thing about the animal is that on October 26, when people chased it with sticks and stones, it attacked them. "Generally, a leopard is easily trapped in a cage but this one did not enter," the expert stressed.
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