Nawab Shafat Ali Khan of Hyderabad, who killed a leopard in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district on Sunday, has been asked to stay back in the district and capture a few other leopards that are stalking villages in the area. In a district where people are feeling terrorised by these leopards, Mr. Khan may have no choice but to shoot and kill the wildcats. Mr. Khan does carry a tranquillising gun, but officials say putting the leopards to sleep by shooting darts at them is not practical.
P.D. Dogra, Divisional Forest Officer, says the hilly terrain and thick bushes make tranquillising next to impossible. Mr. Khan, the shikari, added that forest officials did try to tranquillise the leopard that was killed on Sunday, but did not succeed. Only after exhausting all their options the officials declared the feline a man-eater and issued official orders asking Mr. Khan to shoot the animal.
Tranquillising requires a clear view of the animal otherwise the dart can miss its target. “If I had tried to tranquillise the leopard I would have been killed as the predator charged at me,” Mr. Khan remarked. Mr. Khan is a welcome visitor in these parts. On Monday evening, Bhupender Singh, a 24-year-old man, was attacked by another leopard in Thanug village. The injured man was hospitalised and is stated to be out of danger.
Irate villagers ghearoed forest department officials for their failure to catch the predator. A 500-strong mob gathered and protested at the local hospital where the injured man is recuperating. “If we don’t catch the felines the villagers will thrash us. So angry they are,” remarked Mr. Dogra.
Forest officials say there might be two to three leopards in the hilly terrain. Conservator of Forest, H.B. Kalhoria, the DFO and other forest officials held a meeting at Thanug on Monday to plan the next course of action. Services of local people are being requisitioned and forest guards are camping in the village to allay the fears of residents.
Four cages have already been placed at strategic points in the village and two more are being added. “The leopards are very shrewd and are not coming to get the goats kept as bait,” Mr. Dogra told The Hindu over phone.
Initially the felines were mostly attacking cattle. But in the last one month they have been targeting the villagers.
The locals were not happy with the compensation of Rs. 1 lakh paid by the department to the kin of those killed, Rs. 5000 for simple injuries and Rs. 35,000 for grievous injuries, Mr. Dogra said.