Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Leopard-killing: Indian Forest Minister promises action

KOCHI - Monday, December 21, 2009

Leopard-killing: Forest Minister promises action

Pioneer News Service - Kozhikode / Idukki

Even as wildlife conservation activists began to complain that senior Forest Department officials are unwilling to take action against those responsible for the killing of a young leopard in Thodupuzha town in Idukki district, Forest Minister Benoy Viswam has confirmed that the animal had died of the unruly response of the people of the town.

The leopard, which had accidentally into Thodupuzha on Friday morning, was killed by the people of the town at the end of a two-hour choice though the animal had not tried to attack anyone. Four persons had been admitted to a private hospital in the town, though their injuries were not serious. The injuries were caused by the claws and teeth of the leopard during the efforts to overpower it.

The postmortem on the body of the leopard had revealed that it had died of heavy blows to the head and hard stabs in the lungs through the mouth. The doctors had found that the causes of death were a huge blood clot inside the cranium and ruptures in the lungs. Pieces of wooden stakes that the people had used to thrust into its mouth were recovered from the lungs during post-mortem.

Wildlife conservation activists said that the Forest Department was trying to bury the issue because of the reported lapses on their part in controlling the mob and saving the animal in time using nets and cages. It is also said that they had failed to turn up at the right time even though they had been informed the moment the leopard was first sighted in the town.

However, speaking to newspersons in Kozhikode on Sunday, Minister Benoy denied reports about the lapses on the part of the Forest officials. "The Government has asked for a report on the matter. Action would be taken once the report is available," the Minister said. Immediately after the post-mortem was received, the Forest Department had said on Saturday that action would be taken against those responsible.

Officials of the Forest Department said that since the leopard was an animal coming under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, it killer could be sentenced for up to seven years imprisonment and fines. One of the veterinarians, who had participated in the postmortem, said the animal was indeed a victim of the brutality of the ruthless mob.

Activists said that certain people of the town, who had participated in the attack against the leopard, were planning to put up a defence against any action the Forest Department was proposing to take. They said the injuries of the four people in the hospital were not serious but they had got admitted to the hospital in order to argue that the attack on the animal was an act of self-defence. They said that the leopard had in fact died of the torture with wooden stakes, metallic and PVC pipes and stones by the people who had captured it.

The leopard was first sighted at about 7.30 am Friday in a vacant residential plot. A mob had chased it through residential plots and the roads in the town, throwing stones at the animal. After about two hours of chasing and stoning, the animal was captured as it had begun to show signs of exhaustion.

Even when the three-feet-tall animal was tied down and had come under control, people were seen thrusting wooden stakes into its mouth just for the fun of photographing it with mobile phone cameras. Though policemen and Forest officials had been asking the people not to hurt the animal, this was mostly neglected.

The people, in jubilant mood, later tied the limbs of the leopard to a wooden rod and carried it to the waiting Forest Department vehicle to be taken to their office at Muttom, off Thodupuzha. However, the leopard died within minutes, obviously due to the torture.


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