LEOPARDS AND HUMANS
Leopards have been observed in the suburbs of Nairobi and taking naps in the shadows of parked safari vehicles. Three leopards were found living in a train station in the city of Kampala. As a rule leopards have been more resilient to habitat disturbances and human intrusions than lions, tigers or cheetahs in part because they are so adaptable and willing to eat anything.
Leopards are the most difficult African animals to spot on a safari. Most people on safaris never see one and if they do they don not get close enough for a picture. Tribal people locate leopards by following dung, paw prints and other markings.
Leopards often snoop around tourist lodges late at night when everyone is asleep. They drink from swimming pools and sometimes raid garbage cans. They sometimes enter villages to snatch dogs and livestock
Although their populations seem to be healthy in Africa. Their range is fragmented and encroached on by humans. Farmers kill leopards to protect their livestock. Because leopards often use the same pathways and caches they are easily baited, poisoned or shot. The clearing of trees and bushes to make charcoal and to make agricultural land has reduced the cover that leopards need to hunt.
A leopard skull dated to between 1440 and 1625 has been found in London’s Royal Menagerie. A section of the Tower of London called the Lion Tower contained a section for exotic animals that despite their rarity were often the star attraction of bloody bating events with dogs.
Hunting and Poaching Leopards
About 2,500 leopards are permitted to be killed by hunters in Africa. Another, 2,500 or so are thought to be poached. Hunters pay $10,000 or more to hunt leopards. Scientist track leopards that have had transmitters implanted in them.
Describing a leopard hunt in “True at First Light”, Ernest Hemingway wrote: "One wounded leopard with terrible odds against him...had been shot from the high branch of a tree.” It “suffered a fall no human being could survive and had taken his stand in a place where, if he retained his lovely and unbelievable cat vitality, he could maim or grievously injure any human being who came after him."
Leopards were once slaughtered by the tens of thousands to supply pelts to the fashion industry. Several dozen leopards were sometimes killed to make a single coat. The spotted cat trade was hurt by the decline of the fur trade but rebounded to supply the Asian medicine market. Four raids in India in January 2000 netted 124 leopards skins, 18,080 claws from more than a thousand leopards. and 385 pounds of animals bones. Leopards are also available jn the exotic pet market. In the 1990s, a live North Chinese leopards could be bought for $1,250. In Texas, African leopards are listed in classified ads for $400.
Leopard pelts are still a sign of prestige in Africa. African leaders such as the Zulu king and the head of the Inkatha Freedom Party in South Africa still wear them. Mobutu, the late ;leader of Zaire, was famous for wearing a leopard skin hat.
When asked if he had ever gotten emotionally involved with the animals he was observing, Ullas Karanth, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's India Program, told the New York Times: “During the early 1990's, I was putting radio collars on tigers and leopards at Nagarahole reserve in southern India and then tracking their behavior. With time, this one leopard got really quite habituated to me. For two years, I'd follow him at night. I had a little laboratory in the middle of the forest, and this leopard used to come around at midnight frequently and I'd hear his call. Even half asleep, I'd turn on my receiver and when I'd pick up his signals, I felt, oh, O.K., there's my leopard. But one morning, his signal read as if he was lying inactive somewhere in the forest and I really got worried. When I finally located him, he was strung up like a lynching victim. The leopard had walked into a snare some poacher had set up for deer. Yes, I know, leopards have high mortality rates, and I'm not supposed to feel emotion. But when this happens to a creature you know, you can't be coldblooded. Incidents like this happen every day and their toll on animal life is cumulative. The killers are usually local people trying to get some protein. [Source: Claudia Dreifus, New York Times, August 16, 2005]
Leopards Attacking Humans
Leopards occasionally cause human fatalities. There have been reports of leopards stalking people at night and even breaking into homes and taking victims from their beds. The famous Rudraprayang man-eater of India killed more than 125 people in the 19th century. In one case he stole into a house, grabbed a victim by the throat and dragged him outside the house before the man sitting next to victim realized something was amiss.
Some leopards have killed people by leaping on them in the dark and dispatch them with a single bite to the back of the head. One man who was attacked by his pet leopard fought the animal for 40 minutes until he managed to kill it. “My ear was off,” he told the Independent. “I had to hold my jugular vein, and when I got to the hospital they thought I was going to die.” He needed 1,200 stitches and his face is still paralyzed and badly scared. The man said he was attacked because the animal though he was predatory male.
Corbett believed that man-eating leopards he encountered in Kumaon in India at the turn of the 20th century had developed a taste for human meat after scavenging human corpses. There was a number of reports of leopard attack following the great influenza of 1918 when so many people died it was difficult to keep up with cremating and burying all the victims.
Leopards have killed hunters. Peter Hathaway Capstick wrote in the book Man-eaters: “In no case is the human hunter more likely to end up as the killer’s deliberate next meal as with the leopard. A man-eating leopard is the most difficult and dangerous of all cats to hunt because of its unnerving ability to reverse situations in its favor.”
In India, several professional hunters were killed by a single man-eating leopard and two villagers were killed by a leopard wounded by poachers. In Africa a man was attacked by a leopard when he stepped out of his Land Rover to relieve himself in the bushes. There was also a case where of hunters were snatched from their blinds as the watched a carcass that had been laid out as bait to catch the leopard that killed them.
Leopards Attacks in India
Reports of leopard attacks in India are quite common. In December 2004, in Rajkot, India, a leopard 'visit' caused panic at temple. While the leopard did no harm on this visit. The year before a leopard killed a boy in an area near the same temple. That animal was captured and taken to a local zoo. The same month water workers in Bhandup, India demanded insurance against leopard attacks [Source: ExpressIndia.com]
In January 2005, three persons were injured in Manthani village, and another was seriously injured at the Malhati tea garden in Jalpaiguri, India. In October 2005 in Junagadh, India, a leopard attacked a family in home. “I was having breakfast with my family when a leopard suddenly rushed into our house and before we could do anything attacked us,” the man in the house said.
In November 2006, a four-year-old girl was killed by a leopard in Vadodara in Gujarat state, India,. The feline dragged her off while she was sleeping near her mother outdoors. According to Limkheda Range Forest Officer (RFO) Narendra Chauhan, the leopard picked up the child and dragged her to a nearby riverbed, where she was found dead of serious head wounds. A 50-year-old man was also reportedly attacked by a leopard in the Devgarh Baria division at about the same time, but he survived. [Source: Ahmedabad Newsline web site]
In August 2011, Pamposh Raina wrote in the New York Times: “Several rural villages in India have suffered leopard attacks in recent months, most recently on Saturday in the northeastern state of Assam. In July alone, nearly 16 people were mauled in four different attacks across the country. The most serious was in the eastern state of West Bengal, where a leopard wandered into a village and injured 11 people.A leopard attacks a forest guard in the village of Prakash Nagar in northeastern India.Associated PressA leopard attacks a forest guard in the village of Prakash Nagar in northeastern India. [Source: Pamposh Raina, New York Times, August 5, 2011]
Many of this year’s attacks were in places on the edges of forest reserves, reflecting the growing encroachment of humans on the leopard’s ecosystem, said Belinda Wright, the executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, a nonprofit group. As their habitat shrinks, the cats, which can weigh up to 250 pounds, wander into adjoining human settlements. Samir Sinha, head of Traffic India, a division of the World Wildlife Fund, said that leopards were much more adaptable than other big cats and could live off cattle and dogs in the absence of their usual prey like antelopes and deer. People are usually unprepared to deal with a leopard intrusion and sometimes help precipitate attacks, he and other cat experts add. “The animal is already under stress” when it enters a village and spots humans, Mr. Sinha said. “It’s best to get out of its way, because as it tries to break away someone will be injured.”
People living in areas close to leopard habitats sometimes run into trouble when they enter jungles to defecate, Ms. Wright said. In some areas or rural India, only a tiny percentage of households have access to modern sanitation, she noted. Mr. Sinha recommends that the government invest in emergency response teams for leopard attacks and in transporting the animals to other less densely populated locations. This should be undertaken carefully, he added, as the animal can still be dangerous upon reaching a new habitat.
In April, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests released its first “Guidelines For Human-Leopard Conflict Management.” Calls to the ministry about the 24-page report were not returned, but the manual gives some direction. The report has a flow chart suggesting measures to be taken in the event of an attack on humans or livestock, for example.
Man-Eating Leopards in India
Reporting from Garot, India, Rama Lakshmi wrote in the Washington Post, “The dangerous conflict between man and beast in these Himalayan villages has grown in recent years because of the shrinking number of natural prey for the spotted cat and the steady buildup of people and livestock on the forest fringes. In the past nine years, leopards have eaten 189 people in India's Uttarakhand state. [Source: Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, October 8, 2009]
"This makes the villagers frightened and furious. They demand immediate action against the leopard," said K.L. Arya, the chief wildlife warden. "It is a very difficult decision to issue permits to capture or kill the man-eating leopards." Arya has issued two licenses in the past 10 days; in most instances, the leopard is killed, not captured. One of the two licenses is for the leopard that leapt from nearby hills and killed a 2-year-old boy who was playing with his four siblings on the open terrace of his home.
"The leopard caught my son by his neck right in front of my eyes. I could not even react," said the boy's tearful mother, Geeta Chik, clutching her remaining children. The boy's head and ankles were found in the upper reaches of the mountain the next day. "The leopard should be killed. I want no other child to be harmed again," his mother said.
“The fear is especially palpable after sundown, when the villagers forbid children to play outdoors. Officials say that after each death, villagers block traffic in protest and demand local politicians' help. Rangers enlist shooters to kill the leopards.
Leopards Terrorize Mumbai
In October 2011, Robin Pagnamenta wrote in Times of London, “Leopards are terrorising people in a Mumbai suburb as the city's overflowing slums press further into India's biggest urban nature reserve. In the northern district of Borivali, children are being kept inside after dusk as residents say leopards are feasting on stray dogs, chickens and goats, as well as at local rubbish tips. "We see them almost every day," said Vilas Rajput, 35, a labourer who lives in Kaju Pada, a slum area straddling the border of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, an expanse of lush forest surrounded by sprawling suburbs and shantytowns. "These days we only come here in a group and we don't let our children go out in the evening," he said. [Source: Robin Pagnamenta, The Times, October 06, 2011]
“Nancy Nagwekar, a resident of the Girishikar housing complex, which is only 15 meters from the edge of the park and on land that was forest until four years ago, also fears for her children. "The leopards took a dog on Tuesday," she said. "We found the carcass in the morning. "People are frightened. There are guys who work late shifts and call-centre workers who feel threatened when they come home at night."
“Wildlife experts say the problem is not leopards but people. They say that at least 200,000 humans beings have steadily encroached into the park, living in slums which are illegal but are protected by local politicians who rely on the votes of the residents. Geeta Seshamani, a co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: "The slums are spreading into prime forest land so it's a situation man has created. "The buffer between the park and the city has disappeared so it is not the leopard's fault. He has just found himself in the same place as a lot of people. It's a high-stress situation for a leopard." Mumbai's population has almost doubled in the past 20 years, to 21 million. About half live in slums, many of which are on government land, in parks or mangrove swamps.
“About 35 leopards are thought to live in the park. The leopard population in the park has been swollen by the release into the park of captured leopards from other regions. Vidya Atherya, the city’s leading leopard expert said: “that is likely to have worsened the problem because leopards are territorial and captured leopards often get injured and stressed. They are unlikely to know where they can get prey. This place has always had leopards, long before the city grew up here. What has happened is that people have hemmed them in. The leopards do come out of the forest to take dogs and to feed on garbage, but there us growing evidence that, if left alone, they will leave us alone.”
Leopards Killed 12 People in Bombay Area in 2003
In December 2003, the BBC reported: “Residents in parts of India's business capital, Bombay (Mumbai), are living in fear of an unusual foe - leopards. The big cats have been entering busy residential areas and attacking humans. Over the past year, 12 people, mostly children, have been killed in some 22 attacks near the sprawling national park in the city's Powai area. Five-year-old Anmol Bansal, who lived in a posh high-rise apartment, was one of the latest victims. ,When darkness falls, we take our children inside because no one knows when the leopards will appear [Source: December , 23, 2003]
"I cannot believe that such a thing can happen," Anmol's distraught mother, Neeru Bansal, told BBC News Online. "The park officials say that the [residential] buildings have been built on encroached land... and the state government is unable to provide security to the citizens." Fears after dark The leopards sneak into Powai from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, an urban lung which covers 100 square kilometres and is a haven for wildlife - including leopards. Residents in the posh neighbourhoods of Powai are up in arms
This patch of greenery dotted with lakes and caves is a boon to the polluted and congested city. The lakes are, in fact, natural reservoirs for a largely water-starved metropolis. But residents of Powai have been living in fear of leopard attacks and are scared to venture out after dark. Puklit Mathur, a mother of two children, is one of them. She watches over her two children like a hawk - even when they are playing inside the boundaries of the high-rise apartment block where they live. "I have to be with them all the time, even when they come down to the playground. When darkness falls, we take our children inside because no one knows when the leopards will appear," says Mrs Mathur. Traps The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), a prestigious engineering school, is located in Powai and is a favourite haunt of the leopards. Eight out of the 13 leopards captured in Powai this year have been caught inside the school's campus. Most of those killed have been children
"Almost every other day we see a leopard here," says the school's security officer, Rajesh Dhankar. The campus has been lit up brightly, and security men carrying fireworks keep a round the clock vigil to scare off the cats. The students have even designed their own cages to trap the leopards. Park officials blame the rising number of humans living around the park for this man-animal conflict. "There are thousands of people trespassing into the park," says senior park official AR Bharati. Mr Bharati is also critical of new buildings around the park. "When builders advertise the flats, they tell their clients that they will get beautiful views of the park from their apartments. When it comes to security, they cry foul and ask us to remove the leopards." Local anger Now the forest department is planning to build a wall more than three metres high and 90 kilometres long around the park to keep the leopards in. , It is really weird that in a city like Bombay we have to live in fear of leopards
Officials are also trying to move some of the leopards out of the park. Meanwhile, students at IIT are busy totting up their leopard sightings. "I am probably the only student who has yet to see a leopard. They have paid my hostel a visit at least four times, and graced the football field once," says a disappointed Anuj Pradhan. This year the school's popular annual festival had a cat called Claws as its mascot. Powai residents are not amused, however. Shikha Thomas, one local, says she is angry at the indifference of the authorities. "It is really weird that in a city like Bombay we have to live in fear of leopards. It's worse than living in a village," she says. "We have bought a house here, so we have to stay here. Where can we go?"
The attacks continued in 2005. In February a leopard killed a child near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park four days after a leopard mauled a guard on the Indian Institute of Technology campus. In December 2005, Puja Pawar, a four-year-old girl, was dragged from outside her hut and killed by a leopard in the Manpada area of Thane district, and 50-year-old Laxman Choudhary was mauled.
Reasons Behind the Leopard Attacks in Borivali Park Near Mumbai
In October 2002, the Times News Network reported: The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivali, 18 kilometers north of Mumbai, is the only national park in the world which is situated right in the heart of urban development. Spread over 104 sq km, the park is home to 40 leopards, among the many other species of plants and animals that take shelter here. Over the past few years, the city has seen a rise in the number of leopard attacks in and around the park. While the reasons for these attacks are varied, and to some extent obvious, solutions to avoid these attacks have not been readily forthcoming. [Source: Times News Network, October 17, 2003]
One set of experts believe that human disturbances around the park have led to a drop in the prey base, resulting in the leopard looking elsewhere for prey (a problem, compounded by the rise in the leopard population). Others, believe that the leopards have undergone a behavioural change, with access to easy prey, such as stray dogs, poultry, goats, causing them to ignore traditional prey such as the chital, sambar and the wild boar. “When an animal has access to easy prey, why should it hunt animals such as the sambar, chital or wild boar,” reasons PS Yaduvendu, chief conservator of forests, Wildlife. He believes that the problem may have started in the early 90s when the Mafco factory was still operating in the national park. The factory would process meat and the residue would be dumped outside. This served as an easy meal for the animals, hampering their hunting skills,” he said.
Ravi Chellam, a wildlife biologist, says that there is no permanent solution to the problem, unless the park area is increased. Ideally, a leopard needs about 10-15 sq km with ample prey, water and shelter to exist comfortably. There are far too many leopards in the small patch of land at SGNP. In a given situation, if the population of leopards increased, the animals would move through a natural corridor and disperse to other areas. However, there is no way out for these leopards, as the park is surrounded by development on every side.”
Environmentalists say a slew of property projects and thousands of people squatting illegally in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park have intensified the ancient struggle between man and beast. P.N. Munde, Sanjay Gandhi National Park’s deputy conservator of forests, told Indian news service IANS. that man-animal conflict is only going to increase as Mumbai's population grows. "The leopard is a territorial animal and we cannot expect it to stay in one area. It has to move around," Munde said. The park is located about 25 miles from Mumbai.
Leopard Attacks Two in Khopat, Mumbai
In December 2007, Express News Service reported: “Residents of Khopat in Thane had an uninvited guest, which left them scared but also led to excitement in the area. A leopard accidentally strayed into Khopat from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, some 3 km away across the busy Eastern Express Highway, early in the morning. The leopard attacked two people and the forest department staff struggled for more than 18 hours before they could tranquilise it late in the evening. [Source: Express News Service, December 20, 2007]
First spotted at 5.30 am, the leopard first pounced on Sharddha Govelkar. Her husband said: “Sharddha was knocking at the door around 5.30 am. Our two-year-old son Aryan was also with her. Suddenly, the leopard pounced on her from behind, but she saved Aryan.” The Govelkars live in the Gokuldaswadi area of the Khopat. Sharddha received injures on her head and neck, he said, adding that the leopard fled after she started screaming.
At around 9.30 am, workers at the Shreeram Timber godown in Bata compound had just started the wood cutting machine when the leopard began to roar. The scared workers fled, but locked the doors of godown. The owner immediately informed the Naupada police. By the time the police arrived, the locals and the media had crowded the spot. The leopard then attacked Nandu Kumawat, a local resident, who went looking for it despite the police warning him. He sustained injuries on his left hand and forehead.
The forest officials were not unclear how the leopard strayed so far from the jungle. The SGNP is some 3 km from the spot where the leopard was first spotted. Also, the area adjoining the park is thickly populated with housing complexes and slums.”It could have crossed the Eastern Express Highway when there isn’t much traffic on the road,” said Bhaskarao Walimbe, the Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), who was monitoring the operation to trap the animal.
Initially, the forest officials set up a trap and lured the leopard with a dog. They even tried to scare it with firecrackers, but even that proved futile. The forest officially finally managed to tranquillise the leopard around 8 pm. “When the trap did not work, we decided to tranquillise it in the night,” Walimbe said. “People should not be surprised if a leopard strays outside the park as one cannot control it,” said S K Khetrapal, chief conservator of forest. He, however, warned: “People should take care as leopards can stray outside and attack people in the night or early morning.”He said the forest department was also building a wall adjoining the Ghodbunder Road.
This is the second time in a week when a leopard strayed out of the park and attacked humans. Last week, a leopard had attacked a woman and her daughter. On Sunday, another leopard was hit by a vehicle on the busy Ghodbunder Road.
Leopard Killed in a School
In January 2005, in Phillaur (Chandigarh) a leopard was killed after injuring seven inside school The two-year-old male leopard was discovered under a bench in a classroom of Arya National Secondary School at 8:15 in the morning. Police shot it after a two-hour struggle. Jupinderjit Singh of the Tribune News Service wrote: “An over two-year-old male leopard that was found sitting under a bench in a classroom of Arya National Secondary School, near the grain market here, was shot dead by a team of the Phillaur police today after an over two-hour long struggle during which it injured three policemen and spread panic in the town. [Source: Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service, January 24, 2005]
The leopard “was spotted by a peon and a student of the school at about 8.15 a.m., Less than 15 students were in the building at that time. The leopard kept moving from one room to the other before it jumped from the roof and disappeared for more than 15 minutes. He was later tracked hiding under a bush in an open space of a house behind the school. He was shot at by the policemen, who used AK-47, and SLR besides .303 guns.The bullets had pierced through its body as none were found during the post-mortem examination conducted at the Division Forest Office, Phillaur. There were four bullet wounds in the body.It could have been saved and caught alive if there was a better crisis management done by the police and the state Wildlife Department. The leopard could have been easily locked in the school room, but this was not done.
Though a tranquiliser gun was available less than 10 km away at the tiger safari near Amaltas, the police opted to catch him on its own and subsequently killed it after taking permission over the phone from the state Wildlife Department. Though wildlife officials were present during the controversial operation, no one was an expert in catching wild animals.
The leopard had probably strayed in to the thickly populated area in search of food after its natural habitat in the Shivalik hills was engulfed with snow in the past few days. Wildlife experts suggest that he could have travelled along the Sutlej before venturing in to the town. There was no sign that the leopard was a man-eater and its attack on policemen seemed to be a panic reaction. He entered the school sometime during the night through an open door in an under-construction portion of the school. From there it went to the first floor and settled in a room.
Though a peon of the school was sleeping in the room from which it entered the building, the leopard passed quietly from near the peon’s cot. He did not attack the school staff or students. Sapna, a class X student of the school and daughter of a peon, Ashok Kumar, who lives on the school premises, told The Tribune that she and her aunt Kashmiro had gone to the room at about 8.15 a.m. when they were shocked at the sight of the leopard. “My aunt cleans the room daily at this hour and I always accompany her to keep my bag,” she said. Initially they thought it was a big cat but when Ashok Kumar threw a stick at it and it jumped out of the room they saw its size and shouted that it was a leopard.
The leopard, however, seemed in no mood to leave the school premises. Dr Rajinder Passi, general secretary of the school management, and the policemen reached the school immediately and cordoned off the area. The main gate of the school was closed and students told to go home. According to Bhajan Lal, one of the three injured policemen, the leopard could have been caught alive if it had not attacked them. He along with constables Sanjay Kumar and Sohan Lal suffered injuries on their arms and heads. The three were being praised for their bravery. Sanjay Kumar had even grappled with the wild animal. He also fired at him but missed. Mr A.C. Dogra, Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab, confirmed that his permission was taken over the phone.
Leopard Attacks in Southern India
In December 2004, The Hindu reported: “A leopard that strayed into Manakav on the suburbs of Kozhikode in Kerala was shot dead by policemen after it attacked and injured seven persons. Ajayan, a labourer who first spotted the animal was the first to be attacked. The animal then injured another person who got into its way and disappeared into the shrubs. But it sprang out as a large crowd of curious onlookers raised a hue and cry. The situation became tense as the leopard attacked all those who came into its way in the residential area. By then, Forest Department staff and policemen reached the scene. Also present were the District Collector, Rachna Shah. As the leopard continued to attack people, the Collector gave orders to shoot the animal. After nearly three hours of high drama, the leopard was gunned down by three trained policemen. [Source: The Hindu, December 11, 2004]
In February 2012, The Hindu reported: “Leopards straying into in villages nestling along the forest fringes in Kerala State, attacking people and their cattle have become a matter of serious concern. The killing of a healthy female leopard that had strayed into the small hamlet of Angamoozhy in the Ranni forest division by an unruly mob was the latest in the series of human-leopard conflict in the State. [Source: The Hindu February 29, 2012]
Three weeks before, a five-year old boy was fatally dragged by a leopard from the company of his father and brother at Athirappally in Ernakulam district. The boy’s body was found, later, in the surrounding area and the leopard was not traced. In another tragic incident, a four-year old boy was killed by a leopard on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Idukki district a year ago. Killing of a Tiger by the villagers was also reported from the Munnar Forest division when the animal attacked a woman worker a year ago. As many as four leopards were fatally trapped by humans in Idukki in 2011, according to Mr M.N. Jayachandran, secretary of Society for Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals in Idukki.
Tuesday’s killing of a female leopard had evoked concern and criticism from animal-lovers across the State. The ferocious animal that had killed two domesticated dogs in the village went into hiding in the bushes adjoining a rubber plantation closeby a school. The entire village, including the local panchayat president and a former District Panchayat member, thronged the spot.
The animal that came out after a five-hour wait inside the bush was more or less overpowered by a man from Kollam, Kuttan alias Vettu Kuttan, who claimed to be an expert in trapping of leopards. However the leopard was suffocated to death when 50 to 100 enthusiastic people swooped on the animal, thrusted their weight on it, plugging its mouth and nostrils, later, leaving the nearly 50 Forest department and Police personnel mere mute spectators of the tragic episode. The violent mob even blocked the vehicle of the Divisional Forest Officer, R. Kamalahar, and other Forest personnel, when he had directed the Range Officer to register case in connection with the killing of the wild animal.
Mr M.S. Rajendran, former District Panchayat member, told The Hindu that incidents of leopards attacking cattle and people were on the rise in Angamoozhy, Seethathode and Chittar villages. The local people were left with little option other than taking their own measures for protecting themselves from the wild animal attacks as the Forest department failed to ensure their safety, he said.
The Thrissur-based animal-lovers’ forum, Heritage Task Force (HTF), has condemned the killing of leopard in an avoidable encounter and that too in the presence of the Forest and police officials. In a letter to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Union Minister for Forests and Environment, Jayanthi Natarajan, the HTF secretary, V.K.Venkitachalam, alleged that the killing of leopard was carried out by notorious criminals who were let free by the law-enforcing agency even after the commitment of the crime for reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
Leopard Attacks in Kashmir
In January 2007, the Hindustan Times reported: a leopard killed a 7-year old girl at Panchalthan village in the hills of Achabal in southern Anantnag district of Kashmir. Police said the leopard suddenly appeared outside the house of one Mohammad Yousuf Shaikh in the village, and attacked his daughter Beauty Jan. Police said that the girl, who was rescued by the residents by raising an alarm, however suffered critical injuries residents and died on way to hospital. This is second such incident in the area in the past three days. Earlier on Tuesday a leopard attacked and killed a 10-year old boy at a nearby Utrusso village in the same area. The killing of children by the wild animals have caused panic and scare in the area.[Source: Hindustan Times, January 12, 2007]
Wildlife officials say that there had been a substantial increase in wild animal population in Jammu and Kashmir as poaching and hunting has stopped in Kashmir with the rise of terrorism. They say that the human interference in the wild animal habitat has also increased and many forested areas have been denuded, which force the wild animals to stray into villages. They say that many areas, where wild animal usually inhabit are covered under snow and these animals come down to residential areas in search of food.
In January 2007 Greater Kashmir Online Edition reported: A third girl was killed by a leopard in Chattrugul in Achabal Halkha area of Islamabad district Saturday night [Source: Greater Kashmir Online Edition, January 14, 2007]
Leopard Attacks in Eastern India
The Hindu reported in Three policemen were severely injured in the incident that led to a scuffle between the animal and the policemen. The forest guards, meanwhile, succeeded in tranquilising the leopard A leopard strayed into a village near Siliguri in West Bengal's Darjeeling district and severely injured several policemen and forest guards when they tried to tranquilise it. Five villagers were also injured. The leopard died in the evening after it was brought to a veterinary centre at Sukna. [Source: Raktima Bose, The Hindu, July 20, 2011]
Forest Department officials said the leopard must have strayed into Salugara village, either from the Baikunthapur range or the Mahananda reserve forest. “It was spotted near a house in the morning by villagers who raised an alarm, and this startled the leopard. With the villagers trying to chase it, it tried to flee and injured five villagers in the process. Then, the leopard took shelter in an abandoned house,” Kanchan Banerjee, forest ranger of the Sukna Wildlife Range, told The Hindu on the phone.
Informed by the villagers, the Forest Department officials reached the spot with a large number of police personnel and forest guards. “The animal pounced upon a forest guard when he tried to tranquilise it at the house, injuring him critically. The leopard fled from the site and took shelter in the bushes at the end of the village. Around 5.30 p.m., the forest guards were able to locate it, and as they were approaching the spot in an open-hood vehicle, the leopard pounced on them. Three policemen were severely injured in the incident that led to a scuffle between the animal and the policemen. The forest guards, meanwhile, succeeded in tranquilising the leopard,” Mr. Banerjee said.
But the leopard also suffered injuries, as the policemen used batons and knives to save their colleagues. “Though two doctors were kept ready throughout the operation, the leopard died while it was being treated at the Sukna veterinary centre. Only a post-mortem can ascertain the reason, though external injuries are suspected to be the primary cause,” he said.
January 2012, IBN Live reported: “A leopard, which had strayed into the heart of Guwahati, Assam attacked and injured a person at Nabagraha hill. Panic struck locals tried to drive away the animal, which ran into a nearby house and was kept locked in it till forest department officials, who had been informed, rescued it, official sources said. The injured was admitted to hospital. The leopard had come out of the jungles in the Nabagraha hill from its Silpukhuri side, the sources said. Rampant deforestation of Navagraha hill for construction of houses was causing depredation of habitats of wild animals forcing them to come out and attack people leading to increasing instances of man-animal conflicts, they added. [Source: IBN Livem January 7, 2012]
Leopard Attacks in Central India
IANS reported from Lucknow: “Furious over continued leopard attacks on humans, villagers near the Katarniaghat forest reserve in Uttar Pradesh's Bahraich district roughed up forest officials and held them captive for several hours, an official said Wednesday. A team of forest officials, including a deputy ranger, was roughed up by the locals of Azad Nagar village Tuesday after a leopard, which had killed a minor girl Oct 24, grievously mauled a youth Ramu in the village fields. [Source: IANS November 9, 2011]
Accusing forest officials of not taking adequate steps to prevent wild animal attacks on humans, a large number of locals barged inside a forest outpost and manhandled the officials there. "It was only after the intervention of the police that we managed to rescue our officials," Divisional Forest Officer R.K. Singh told reporters Wednesday in Bahraich, 140 km from here.
"The leopard is hiding in the sugarcane fields of the village. We are carrying out an operation to drive it towards the forest area," added Singh. He confirmed that the same leopard had killed seven-year-old Kavita while she was sleeping outside her house in Sampatpurwa village. According to officials, over the last one month as many as six people have been injured and two killed in leopard attacks in Bahraich. The Katarniaghat forest reserve is home to at least 32 leopards.
In October 2011, the Indian Express reported from Nagpur: “One more person was killed in a leopard attack in Samudrapur area of Wardha district, suspected to have been caused by the same problem animal that has so far killed two persons in the neighbouring Chimur range of Chandrapur district. Baba Barekar, 42, was attacked by the leopard when he had gone to his field to water the crop. The leopard was hiding near the electric pump switch. When Barekar went to put off the switch after completing the work, the leopard attacked him and killed him on the spot. [Source: Vivek Deshpande , Indian Express, October 29 2011]
Divisional Forest Officer, Wardha, Pravin Chauhan told The Indian Express that the leopard also ate part of Barekar’s body. “We suspect it is the same animal that ran from the troubled area, which is very close, and came over to this side.” Sources said when Barekar didn’t return home, his brother reached the farm to locate him. There he saw the horrific scene of the leopard sitting on his brother’s body and devouring it. He ran back to village to inform the villagers who rushed to the field. The leopard, however, had made good its escape by then. Forest Department’s tranquilising team and an army of forest staff is camping in the troubled area with a number of cages deployed at vantage places to capture the animal, but haven’t yet succeeded.
In February 13, 2005 in Maharashtra Province, India, a tribal resident of Borkhind village was sleeping outdoors when the animal attacked and left him wounded. Frightened villagers said that it was the second incident after a leopard earlier took a girl away.India Travel Times reported: Terror has gripped a village in Nasik in Maharashtra following a leopard attack on a villager who was sleeping outside his home on Saturday. Thirty-year-old Kalu Shravan Dame, a tribal resident of Borkhind village, was sleeping when the animal attacked him, and left him wounded. KL. Sayeed, Assistant Forest Reservation Officer, said that the wounded man has identified the wild animal that attacked him as a leopard. "This man was sleeping outside his house at night when he was attacked. He has got injuries in his eyes, ears and head. We assume it was a leopard attack. He was given initial treatment at the government dispensary and now has been moved to this hospital," said Sayeed. Frightened villagers said that it was the second incident after a leopard took a girl child away. [Source: India Travel Times, February 23, 2005]
Meanwhile, forest officials have advised people against sleeping outside their homes at night. "In this village, the panther has been troubling the villagers since a long time. It had earlier picked up a child whose frock was found. Now it has attacked another man. If these people do not sleep outside, then they will not attack the villagers. We have put a cage to catch it, and have also advised the villagers not to sleep outside their houses," said DK Jadow, a forest guard. Environmentalists have in the past warned against the shrinking habitat of wild animals forcing
Leopard Triggers Panic in Meerut, India
In February 2014, AFP reported: “A leopard sparked panic in Meerut on Sunday when it strayed inside a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block while evading captors. Authorities closed schools and colleges in Meerut, a town in Uttar Pradesh state some 60 kilometres northeast of New Delhi, after the leopard was discovered prowling the city’s streets, a senior city official said. “Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to track the leopard down. We have launched a massive hunt for the beast,” said a police official. [Source: AFP, February 25, 2014]
The cat was found inside an empty ward of an army hospital before wildlife officers were called and managed to fire a tranquiliser dart into it. “But despite that he managed to break (out through) the iron grilles and escaped. He then sneaked into the premises of a cinema hall before entering an apartment block. After that we lost track of the cat,” the official added. Authorities have urged the closure of markets in the city of 3.5 million until the animal, which has left six people injured, was captured.
Attacks By Captive Leopards
In November 2006, Spiegel Online reportedl: “A 23-year-old female worker at the Chemnitz (Eastern Germany) Zoo was attacked and killed while cleaning the enclosure used for the zoo's two Persian leopards. In 2004, a female keeper at this zoo was badly mauled by a lion. A police spokeswoman was quoted as saying she died immediately. According to reports, the zookeeper had only recently completed training. She may not have properly locked the door to a cage in the rear of the animals' enclosure where the leopards were supposed to be confined during cleaning. [Source: Spiegel Online, November 11, 2006]
In July 2011, AFP reported: “Russian police said on they would not be charging the owners of a circus where a leopard mauled a small girl, as the law failed to provide adequately for such an event. The incident took place in Smolensk, a city some 400 km to the southwest of Moscow on July 8. The leopard bit the girl's thigh and scratched her shin before being restrained by circus staff. "Russian law does not provide any clear description of how to act with regard to wild animals, including in a circus, and does not state any punishment for the owner of an animal that attacks a person," said Alexander Borovikov, a senior aide to the prosecutor for the Smolensk Region. The circus accused the girl's parents of extortion after they attempted to gain compensation for the incident. Police have refused to open an investigation. [Source: AFP, July 28, 2011]
Man-Eating Leopard Hunter
Rama Lakshmi wrote in the Washington Post, “Hiding in the bushes along a river, Lakhpat Singh Rawat heard mountain deer bark. He peered through the scope of his hunting rifle and wondered whether the leopard that recently carried away the 2-year-old village boy was approaching. Within minutes, a brown form moved slowly across a grassy patch. When his assistant directed a powerful light at the animal, Rawat eased his finger from the trigger. "This is not the man-eating leopard I am hunting for. This one is much younger," Rawat whispered, plucking the weeds off his camouflage jacket.[Source: Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, October 8, 2009]
“The mustached 45-year-old with sharp eyes and oiled hair is a revered hunter of man-eating leopards in Uttarakhand. Since 2002, Rawat has killed 27 big cats with the state's permission, earning both fanfare and flak in a battle between humans and wildlife conservation. Villagers hail him as a savior for eliminating the leopards that eat people, mostly children. But activists question a system that encourages him to hunt an endangered species.
“But Rawat, who is a schoolteacher, said a spate of leopard attacks on children in 2002 stirred his conscience. "Twelve schoolchildren were killed by a crafty leopard that picked them from wedding parties," the sharpshooter recalled. "Nobody was able to catch the animal. I could not watch this go on. I am a good shot, and I volunteered."
“Now, almost every villager in the area knows Rawat. He is called the "Leopard Killer," and he gets fan mail. When he kills a wild cat, villagers anoint his forehead with sandalwood paste and chant slogans. They also anoint the dead leopard before it is taken for forensic analysis and cremation. "The leopard is a holy animal. It is the vehicle" of one of the Hindu goddesses, Rawat said. "I do penance and pray every day when I hunt."
“Despite his hero-like image, Rawat is not without fear. He recently petitioned the Uttarakhand Forest Department to give him insurance when he goes to hunt. "I have the license to shoot only man-eating leopards," he said. "But when I go to hunt, it is the Himalayan black bear and snakes that I fear most."
Critics of Hunting Man-Eating Leopards
Rama Lakshmi wrote in the Washington Post, “Those who study the biology and behavior of leopards question the continued hunting of the animals. "When we kill or capture and move them, we do not understand how we affect their ecosystem and social structure. It causes them tremendous psychological stress, and chances of conflict increase," said Vidya Athreya, a wildlife biologist with the Kaati Trust. "When the old ones are killed, new leopards come into the area." She added that villagers often fail to distinguish between accidental and deliberate attacks by leopards. [Source: Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, October 8, 2009]
“In April 2009, Rawat shot a 7-year-old leopard that was later found to be pregnant with twin cubs. Angry activists said the animal could have been trapped instead. Critics also say that adequate analysis is not done before the leopards are killed. "There is no guarantee that the leopards he kills are the same ones that kill people," said Hem Singh Gehlot, an activist working in villages located near wildlife pockets. "How long do they observe the animal and trace its routes before killing it? Relying on [footprints] is not enough."
“Under Indian law, leopards and tigers are endangered species. A tiger is declared a man-eater only after it kills six human beings, but the rules for leopards are flexible. Gehlot said that the effort is always to capture a man-eating tiger but that a man-eating leopard is often killed. Rawat wants officials to train villagers to tranquilize the animals, and he advocates putting radio collars on leopards. But rangers say it is impossible to tag the animals because there are so many of them and they are not restricted to one area.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.
Last updated May 2014