Did leopard fall prey to human anger?

The beast's decomposed body was recovered by officials from the Shivansai village yesterday; officials certain that it was killed by humans, possibly to avenge the many leopard attacks that have taken place in the area recently

In an incident that is sure to raise the hackles of animal lovers and wildlife conservationists, the decomposed body of a violently slain leopard was recovered by forest department officials in the Shivansai village adjoining the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) at Vasai-Virar yesterday. Officials are certain the beast was killed by humans.

Beastly attack: The body had festered by the time it was recovered.
Its front claws and hind limbs had been hacked off. PIC/Nimesh Dave

According to sources, the corpse had decomposed severely by the time it was salvaged. "It appears that the leopard was killed, and its front claws and hind limbs hacked off post mortem," said a forest officer.

"The incident must have taken place over two days ago, as the body had festered. It can be said with certainty that the animal has not died a natural death and was the victim of a human act. The forest department should investigate the matter with the help of the local police. Strict action should be taken against the culprits who ruthlessly killed this innocent beast," said an official, on condition of anonymity.

An eyewitness who saw the decomposed body of the leopard surmised that the beast may have fallen prey to the angry migrant workers living near the brick kilns on the fringes of TWS. The workers may have slain the beast to avenge the attacks made recently on a young girl and a boy by leopards, in two separate incidents. The girl succumbed to the injuries sustained in the attack.

Forest department officials have taken serious note of the incident and are reportedly conducting investigations to nab the perpetrators. They are also trying to ascertain if the killing is a backlash for the five incidents of leopard attacks that have taken place in the past three months in Tungareshwar.

One such victim was eight-year-old Chiraj Patil, who was attacked while he was playing outside his hut in the Shivansai village last month. The child started wailing for help as the leopard started dragging him away from his hut. Scared, the beast abandoned the child and fled into the thicket. Chiraj sustained grave injuries and had to be taken for treatment to a government hospital.

In another incident, 12-year-old Vandana Pingle, who lived in one of the brick-manufacturing units, was mauled to death by a leopard, when she went to collect firewood just a few metres away from her home. Her mangled, half-eaten body was found a few days later inside the forest.

Sitting ducks
The forest department has already started serving notices to contractors of brick-manufacturing units in the Virar and Ghodbunder area, instructing them to make indoor living arrangements for their workers, who mostly sleep out in the open, attracting leopards.

"The contractors of the brick-manufacturing unit don't provide rooms to the workers for night accommodation, because of which they have to sleep in the open. If they are not provided secure lodgings, the number of leopard attacks in the area will only rise. We have started serving notices to contractors of these units, making it mandatory for them to provide accommodation to the workers," said a forest department officer.

At present, there are many brick-manufacturing units located a stone's throw from the boundary wall of TWS. Contractors often import migrant workers from remote areas of Maharashtra to work at these kilns. They are not provided any lodgings by the contractors. MiD DAY had carried a report on this last month ('Workers sleeping in the open attack leopards', December 2).

Confirming the incident, Vinaya Jangle, veterinary doctor at Sanjay Gandhi National Park said, "Yesterday we recovered the body of a leopard in a decomposed form. Prima facie it appears that the innocent animal was poisoned and killed. We also found bodies of three dogs, which confirmed that someone has poisoned the animal. We have already conducted the post mortem and have collected viscera for further examination."

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