The 2.5-year-old leopard, which was beaten to death on Thursday in Mandawar village, 40-kilometres from Gurgaon, appears to have been roaming in the area for over a week before the incident. The fully grown leopard was first spotted by goat herders near Damdama lake a few days ago. Residents of the village said goats and dogs in the village had also been disappearing in the past few days.
A majority of the villagers thought the news about the presence of a leopard in the area was only a rumour, but on Thursday the male leopard was finally spotted in the village. A woman, Anita Sharma, was the first to raise the alarm on seeing it, leading to frenzy as people started gathering to catch a glimpse of the wild animal.
However, panic spread in the village, and women and children locked themselves in their homes, after the leopard attacked and injured a villager, Sunder Singh. Following this, young men of the village armed themselves with sticks and axes and formed a group to chase the animal.
“We had heard the goat herders say that a leopard was spotted near Damdama lake, but only a few believed it,” said Lekh Ram, a local resident. Village residents now attribute the sudden disappearance of some stray dogs and three dogs from a farmhouse in the last one week to the leopard.
“The leopard was so strong, agile, and ferocious that it could have killed an able man if it was not cornered,” said Sandeep Kumar, a local who was part of the group that chased the animal. Over 13 people, including a forest guard, were injured when they tried to capture the leopard. It was later killed after it entered a house in the village.
Locals said that there were also instances of goats vanishing from the village, but it did not arouse much suspicion for almost a week.
“We should have been more cautious and taken cognizance of the missing dogs and goats in the village. If people had raised this issue earlier, the injuries to the group of men and killing of the leopard could have been avoided,” said Surender Shastri, another local resident.
A few weeks earlier, a large python too was spotted inside the jungle where some construction work is taking place near Mandawar. However, the villagers could not do anything about it.
“The forest department and wildlife authorities need to work with villagers at the local level so that everyone is prepared for such exigencies,” said Deepak Kumar from neighbouring Harchandpur village. He was critical of the manner in which the matter was handled.
Environmentalists in Gurgaon cautioned that man-animal conflict would increase in coming years as the Aravallis are under severe stress caused by increasing urbanisation.
“The tree cover in forest areas is gradually reducing and human activity is increasing, which is forcing animals to enter villages such as Mandawar. It is high time that a balance is drawn to ensure both that both man and animal co-exist peacefully,” said Vivek Kamboj, a Gurgaon-based environmentalist.