Sunday, November 08, 2009

India: Alarming rise in leopard killing in Uttarakhand

Pioneeer News Service - Dehradun
Monday, November 9, 2009

Two more big cats killed in 10 days; this year’s toll crosses 40

Rising man-animal conflicts in Uttarakhand have resulted in two more leopard killings in Rudraprayag forest division. The second death took place on Saturday night while the first was a result of poisoning by villagers.

More than 40 leopards have died in the State this year which is more than the annual average. The last two took place in a span of 10 days.

According to sources, an eight-year-old female leopard was gunned down by Uttarakhand’s reputed shooter Lakhpat Singh on Saturday after a hunt of more than 17 days.

Villagers from Pingarhi and Medanpur villages of Jakholi block had been living in extreme fear for the past several months as the beast had killed two women from these two villages and seriously injured nearly a dozen people.

The killings took place on October 20 and October 21, from Pingarhi and Medanpur villages, respectively, early in the morning. Following the deaths and the maulings, locals took to organising street protests against forest officials and the district administration.

Constant public pressure to provide them relief from leopard terror forced local forest officials to act swiftly and request the State chief wildlife warden, KL Arya, to pronounce the animal a “man-eater.” This paved the way for its elimination.

A cage was placed between the transition zone of the village and Jakholi forest range. Lured by the prey in the cage, the maneater approached it and was shot dead by Singh.

Earlier, a leopard was found dead under mysterious circumstances late October after a human killing in Medanpur. According to residents, this leopard was poisoned by angry villagers.

In July this year, the State Forest Department had seized three leopard skins from a hotel at Birhi near Chamoli district. One person was arrested while other three persons escaped. All of them were natives of Chamoli district. According to a senior forest official, the leopards might have been killed in the Nizmullah valley of Uttarakhand. The forest officials had also recovered the dead of a Himalayan black bear in the Badarinath Forest Division. Poachers had removed the gall bladder and fat from the body of this bear.

Tiger, leopard, otter are the three major wildlife species that are traded illegally in India. According to wildlife experts, China and Southeast Asian countries are their biggest market. Tiger body parts are used in indigenous medicines and are the most prized. “Leopard bones are considered good substitutes and are also in demand,” said an official of Wildlife Protection Society of India. Skulls and claws of the protected animal are also in demand.

Leopards are included in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, that gives them legal protection. As per official statistics, there were about 11,000 leopards in India in January 2008. WPSI statistics show that over 3,000 leopards were killed between 1994-2008.


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