Guwahati, June 23: Evidently shaken by the commotion near its shelter in the hills skirting this capital city, an adult male leopard today strayed into a crowded locality and wandered helplessly for an hour before forest department personnel tranquillised it.
The incident occurred a few hours after villagers killed another leopard at Kalapahar, on the outskirts of the city. The predator had attacked a herd of cattle last night.
Residents of Maligaon, where the head office of Northeast Frontier Railway is located, spotted the straying leopard a little after 2 pm. On receiving the news, a team of officials from the Assam State Zoo rushed to the locality and found the animal crouched inside the open garage of a house near Maligaon Railway Hospital.
It took a while for the officials to sedate the leopard. “A Maruti car was parked in the garage and visibility was poor. The presence of a crowd made it even more difficult for us to temporarily tranquillise the animal,” divisional forest officer Narayan Mahanta said.
The official said the leopard might have ventured out of the Nilachal Hills, close to Kamakhya temple, because of the noise created by lakhs of people streaming in and out of the shrine for the ongoing Ambubachi mela.
Guwahati is one of the few cities to have wildlife habitats in its vicinity. As many as 13 forest reserves have been created to safeguard “urban wildlife”, a term used to describe animals living within or in the periphery of a city.
Mahanta said the sedated leopard was taken to the zoo and would be under observation for a day or two. He blamed “too much disturbance” near the Nilachal Hills for the animal’s plight. “The leopard may have been startled by the commotion at the venue of the Ambubachi mela.”
Zoo doctor B. Gogoi, who had previously tranquillised a tiger that ventured into Tezpur town, failed in his first attempt today. He found the target with his second shot, after taking aim for nearly 20 minutes. The leopard scampered out of the garage after being struck by the dart, but could not make it beyond one among the row of houses in the locality.
The police are investigating the circumstances leading to the death of the other leopard at Kalapahar.
Wildlife experts say the forests around the city are home to several endangered species. These animals are, however, not safe anymore because of encroachment on forests and the city’s rapid expansion.
One-horned rhinos from Pabitora, about 40 kilometres from here, occasionally stray into the chaporis (river islands) of the Brahmaputra on the city’s northeastern side.