A mysterious animal attacking children in the middle of the night has put half-a-dozen villages located adjacent to Budhni-Salkanpur road in Sehore district, about 70 km from Bhopal, on alert. While villagers say that the animal could be a panther, forest officials maintain that it is a hyena.
The animal has attempted to drag at least three children from their house at night over the last 30 days, villagers said, adding that the frequency of the attacks has increased in the last two days.
The first attack was reported from Deogaon village on March 8, when Dayachand, 10, was dragged out of his house by the animal. The animal abandoned the boy after his parents woke up hearing his cries for help and raised an alarm.
After a brief lull, on April 9 the animal once again attacked three-year-old Rikhita of Machlikho village. The animal tried to haul the girl out of her house but left her after villagers raised alarm.
The next day, on April 10, a 12-year-old boy, Chandan, was attacked by the animal at village Pandadoh, about three kilometre from Machlikho. Chandan managed to escape from the clutches of the animal and is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Hoshangabad along Rikhita.
“The villagers initially claimed the animal was a panther, but after we showed them photographs they agree that it was a hyena,” Budhni’s sub-divisional officer (forest) BP Singh told HT. He added that the forest department has set up cages with bait to catch the animal. A team from Satpura tiger reserve has also been deputed in the area to catch the animal.
Meanwhile, locals live under fear of the lurking animal. “Most people, sleeping outside their houses, keep axe close by,” said Vishnu of Holipura village.
The area has a small patch of forests close by and a larger forest along the highway. The animal seems to have come to human habitations in search of food. Villages with their livestock are a food source supply for the animal.