Monday, 30th October 2017

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Forest staff as bait for leopard

Humans to attract and trap big cat in Dooars tea garden

By Our Correspondent in Alipurduar
  • Published 13.01.20, 1:16 AM
  • Updated 13.01.20, 1:16 AM
  • a min read
  •  
The forest guards inside the cage on Sunday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury

Legend has it that Kalidasa had once tried to saw off a branch he had been sitting on. None has accused the planners of naivety, but a group of men are being made to sit round the clock inside a cage in a Dooars tea garden, offering themselves as bait for a leopard that has already tasted human blood.

For the past two days, junior forest officers in pairs have been sitting inside a cage that is usually used to keep goats and cattle as bait, waiting with dart guns in eight-hour shifts for the leopard on the Garganda tea estate in Alipurduar district’s Madarihat.

The leopard, which killed a 12-year-old girl in the tea garden on December 17 and partially ate her, has so far eluded its captors although it has been spotted by garden residents on multiple occasions.

After the incident, foresters placed eight cages at different locations in the garden to tranquillise and trap the leopard.

They first used cattle and goats as bait, but could not attract the leopard. Then they placed talking dolls in the cages, in the hope that the leopard, which had already killed a girl, could fall for the trick.

When nothing worked, forest officers decided to use humans as bait. Sources claimed that those entering the cage — mainly guards and deputy rangers who are experts in tranquillising animals — were “safe” inside the cage as its iron mesh was so dense that the leopard would not be able to cause harm to those in it.

“As the leopard has not been trapped in any of the cages, we adopted this new strategy of putting our men with dart guns inside a cage. If the leopard comes near the cage, they will tranquillise it. We will wait for a few days and if the animal is not sighted in the area, we will shift the cage to another location,” said Kumar Vimal, the divisional forest officer of the Jaldapara wildlife division.