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Assam’s row of conflict with big cats

Two leopards fall prey to human fear

Guwahati/Jorhat, Feb. 29: Man-animal conflict is taking on a new dimension in the state with people not only killing leopards straying into their habitat, but also allegedly eating their meat.

People killed two leopards in two separate incidents and, in one of the instances, even shared the meat among themselves.

Both incidents took place around the same time this morning, though the sites were 500km apart — one at Ghagrajan tea estate in Dibrugarh district and the other at Hasong in Rangia subdivision of Kamrup.

If the leopard at Hasong was guilty of having attacked and injured eight persons, one of them seriously, the one in Ghagrajan Tea Estate was innocent.

In Ghagrajan tea estate, the leopard was virtually plucked out of the tree on which it was resting. Forest officials in Dibrugarh district said the leopard was spotted on top of the tree this morning.

After receiving information, forest and police personnel rushed to the place and asked the labourers, who had gathered in the area, to leave and allow the leopard to move away.

Sources, however, alleged that as soon as the forest and police personnel left the place, a few labourers returned and killed the leopard with bows and arrows. The hunters then shared its meat among themselves.

Jiten Bora, a forest official in Dibrugarh, said after hearing that the leopard had been killed, department personnel returned to the garden.

“But we are yet to find evidence of the leopard having been killed or its meat shared. We are still investigating,” he said over phone.

Last year, people had killed a leopard and shared its meat in Baksa district.

The drama at Hasong began unfolding around 9am when one Bhagaban Das raised an alarm after sighting the leopard and was immediately attacked by the cat.

“On hearing his cries, the villagers rushed out with sticks and sharp weapons to attack the leopard, which, in a state of panic, started attacking the others,” divisional forest officer, north Kamrup forest division, Hridesh Mishra, told The Telegraph.

Eight persons were injured, he said. Mishra said the villagers, armed mainly with agricultural implements, killed the leopard.

“Its four paws and the tail were chopped off and taken away,” he said.

“The leopard might have come from Bhutan as there is no reserve forest nearby,” Mishra said.

He said they were informed only after the leopard was killed by the villagers.

Besides Deka, the others injured were Prashanta Rajbongshi, Parama Rajbongshi, Mohidhar Deka, Dharmeswar Boro, Mukul Deka, Niranjan Deka and Mohiram Deka.

They are undergoing treatment at Gauhati Medical College Hospital.

The agitated mob claimed that despite informing both the forest officials and police personnel about the sighting of the leopard, they reached the spot very late.

According to an official of the Rangia police station, the forest department has lodged a complaint against the villagers for killing the leopard.

The remnants of the carcass were taken to the range forest office for post-mortem.

Subsequently, it was burnt in the presence of a magistrate, the police official said.

In another incident last night, a leopard was caged at Dikom tea estate, about 10km from Ghagrajan tea estate. The tea garden management had installed the cage a week back to capture the leopard which had become a menace in recent times.

The leopard was later released at Jeypore reserve forest, about 40km away.