Days after the brutal death of a pregnant wild elephant in Kerala that sparked national outrage, a leopard was lynched to death by locals in Assam on Sunday morning. The incident took place in the Fatasil Reserved Forest hillocks of Guwahati where a leopard was caught in an illegal leg-hold trap set by one of the residents. Six persons have been picked up by city police on charges of killing the leopard and cutting off its body parts.
This is the fifth death of leopards this year in the state. Earlier in April, during the coronavirus lockdown, four leopards were killed in Upper Assam’s Golaghat and Jorhat districts.
“The incident took place in the encroached area of Fatasil Reserve Forest. The leopard did not come out of its home, people went into its home and killed it. When I reached the spot at about 7.30am, I also informed the Guwahati Zoo authorities to help tranquilise the animal. By the time the veterinary team reached, the leopard that had likely spent hours struggling to free itself from the trap managed to escape into the forest but could not save itself from death,” said Jitender Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Guwahati Wildlife Division.
The forest official even tried to educate people on the characteristics of leopards, asking them no to kill it. Locals said the leopard had been preying on poultry and goats, and tried attacking stray dogs in the area.
“When the leopard ran away, I tried to convince people not to go after the injured animal, tried explaining how leopards co-habit with humans and venture out in search of food. But an hour after I left, around 10am, the range officer informed me that locals have killed the leopard, and chopped off its body parts – skin, teeth, nails,” Kumar narrated.
Meanwhile, a post mortem is being conducted to ascertain how the animal died. “We are in the process of identifying the accused, and a complaint will be registered on completion of post mortem. Police investigation is on. Once identified, those responsible for this crime will face prosecution,” said Rajib Baruah, DFO Kamrup East Division.
In other incidents, five persons were arrested on April 23 for killing a leopard in Golaghat district and consuming its meat. A forest team led by Bhaskar Deka, DFO, Golaghat division managed to identify the accused with the help of a video recording from the scene of crime. In Golaghat district alone, three leopards were killed by villagers, and five others rescued during the lockdown period in April. Another leopard was shot dead by Assam Police personnel in the outskirts of Jorhat district on April 6.