Jorhat, Feb. 10: An adult leopard was allegedly poisoned and its carcass mutilated by goons at a village near a tea estate close to Sonari town in Sivasagar district.
Forest department sources said the mutilated carcass of the male leopard was spotted in a drain near a paddy field of Mohangaon near the boundary of Khona tea estate this morning.
The site is 12km from Sonari town.
The big cat was reportedly poisoned as it had been causing havoc by killing cattle belonging to the villagers and garden workers.
The range officer of Sonari range of the Sivasagar forest division, R.K. Medhi, told this correspondent that the legs, tail, nails, teeth and ears were missing. Medhi said local criminals must have mutilated the carcass and taken away the parts of the leopard.
The animal must have died a few days ago, as the carcass was infected with maggots.
Medhi said a post-mortem was carried out on the spot and the carcass was buried after burning it according to department instructions.
The range officer said the post-mortem report, expected to be ready within the next few days, would specify the cause of the death.
He did not rule out the possibility of the animal being poisoned by local residents.
The range officer said an FIR has been lodged with the police over the incident and forest department has also initiated an investigation.
Medhi said if evidence against any person was found, action would be taken according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (amended in 2002).
He said the leopard is an animal listed in Schedule 1 of the wildlife protection law and killing the animal is a crime, under which, if a person is convicted, he could be imprisoned for up to five years.
Last year, the Borhat range of the Sivasagar forest division had arrested four persons for their alleged involvement in the killing of a leopard at Oguri Shyamgaon in Charaideo subdivision of the district. Over 15 leopards were killed in the state last year, with most of the incidents reported from Upper Assam.