Sunday, November 22, 2009

India: Leopard killed by vehicle, search is on for cubs

Leopard dies, hunt on for cubs

Guwahati, Nov. 21: The Assam forest department has launched an operation to rescue leopard cubs whose mother was run over by a speeding vehicle on National Highway 37 at Bongaon in Golaghat district in the wee hours today.

"There are suckling marks on the abdomen of the leopard and we are sure it has a few cubs," a forest official at Numaligarh range told this correspondent.

He said it was very important to rescue the cubs immediately or else they would die.

A resident of Bongaon, Numal Kurmi, said over phone that the leopard had at least two cubs.

"I saw the cubs once last week when I was returning home in the evening. The cubs are not that small and were walking along with their mother near a bamboo grove by the road."

The leopard was on the run after killing a calf at Bhaiti Ghotowar's house, which is located along the national highway, last night. "Ghotowar's neighbour, who came out of his house in the wee hours, came face-to-face with the leopard which was feeding on the calf. The leopard fled but was unable to dodge a speeding vehicle on the national highway. The animal's head was crushed under its wheels," the forest official said.

The leopard had killed at least 10 cattle in the area in the past month.

The death of the animal comes within a week of another leopard being killed by villagers at Teok in neighbouring Jorhat district.

The frequent killings of leopards have led conservationists to dub Assam as a "killing field" for the animals.

"It is our fault as we have encroached upon the forests which are home to these animals. Now they have no place to go and are in constant conflict with humans. It's time we took some serious steps to protect them," said Amrit Gogoi, a member of an Upper Assam-based NGO, Sewa, that works for the conservation of big cats.

According to an estimate, at least 20 leopards have died in the Upper Assam districts of Jorhat, Golaghat and Sivasagar in the past year.


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