| The black panther captured at the Ethelwood tea estate. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Dibrugarh, Dec. 29: A full-grown male black panther walked into a trap laid by Dibrugarh forest officials and Ethelwood tea estate staff at the garden, on the outskirts of this Upper Assam town, last night.
The black panther is an endangered species and is very rarely sighted nowadays. It is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The tea estate’s manager, Gautam Bora, said the panther and some leopards had been sparking panic in the garden for quite some time.
“We were extremely troubled by the presence of the panther and leopards in the tea estate. The big cats were killing the workers’ cattle and even dogs. The forest department set up a cage on request but we never thought that the black panther would fall into the trap first,” he added.
The forest department set up the cage in section 18 of the tea estate, which is behind the manager’s bungalow.
Next, it drew up a plan with assistance from the garden authorities.
The plan, which was chalked out over the past few days, involved placing baits in the cage.
“We used different baits — chicken, duck, goat — on different days,” Dibrugarh forest range officer Jiten Bora said.
The plan worked and the panther was trapped on the third day, lured by the bait of a goat.
“The goat made a lot of noise which might have attracted the animal,” he added.
The range officer said they had noticed some injuries on the panther’s legs.
“It could be because of its hard struggle for escape after getting trapped or due to fights with leopards. We have decided to send it to the wildlife rescue centre in Kaziranga after a preliminary treatment here,” he added.
The garden manager said the panther had been sighted in the garden earlier, too, particularly at night.
“I saw the animal twice myself while coming back from office after sunset,” he added.
The big cats are stalking prey in the tea gardens because of depleting forest cover and largescale encroachment in the jungles.
Reports of livestock being killed by leopards and the big cats being trapped or killed by people have become a regular affair these days in the tea gardens of Upper Assam.