Posted: Tuesday , Oct 20, 2009 at 0229 hrs
Sridutt Sharma, a resident of Germany, spent years looking for a tiger or a leopard in sanctuaries and tiger reserves across India, but in vain. On Monday, his wish was finally granted, but in the most unlikely of all places — in the middle of his mushroom farm, down a road in what is called Hiranki village cemetery, in Alipur, North Delhi.
Sharma said he saw the big cat reclining in his field while he was having tea in his farmhouse this morning. He recorded the footage of the leopard in his camcorder for about 30 seconds before the animal got up and strolled out of view.
Since then, the Forest Department, local police and wildlife specialist group Wildlife SOS have been at work, trying to capture the leopard.
Delhi Zoo officials, who are registered to use tranquiliser darts, reached the spot more than five hours late. By then, the entire village had gathered at the spot and two vans full of local police and a fire engine had also shown up. In the process, they trampled over many of the pugmarks on the field.
Experts said that has left most of the evidence scratched out.
Sharma said: “I have looked for big cats all my life in protected areas — I have been to Sariska, Ranthambore and Corbett, but have never seen a leopard or a tiger.” He said he saw the leopard around 7 am. “As I spend most of my time in Germany, I was not familiar with the local authorities and made a call to the Police Control Room (100) at 10 am — the leopard has disappeared since then.”
Newsline found pugmarks of the animal, which was also confirmed by specialists.
Kartick Satyanarayan, honorary wildlife warden and Wildlife SOS co-founder said: “Our team has confirmed presence of the leopard through the pugmarks. From the video footage and the size of the pugmark it appears to be a sub-adult.
“The next step is to get an idea of its location and set traps.”
He said the NGO’s experts, along with those from the Forest Department, will use “triangulation method” to find it: “We will search, say, a 15-km radius for three signs: scat, kills and pugmarks. Then we will mark these locations on a GPS map and set baits along the overlapping points.”
Sharma’s wife Maria Helen Sharma is still hoping for a glimpse of the leopard. “I am from France and we live in Germany, where there are no big cats,” she said. I was in the bath (when it came) — I missed the leopard by a whisker.”
A leopard was spotted in Delhi last in 1993 — in Sainik Farms. The police had gunned down the animal.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org