A leopard, which had strayed in a village in Dholbaha forest range on Friday, died allegedly due to negligence of the wildlife officials.
How ill trained the department is when it comes to the rescue of accidently trapped animals, came to light on Friday when the rescue team took almost two hours just to administer a tranquilizer to the wild cat. Minutes after it was injected with anesthesia and trapped in a net, it died.
Eye witness said that the official gun refused to go off due to rust. Moreover, the staff had just a single dart to administer anesthesia to the leopard which had got entangled in a zizyphus tree. A missed shot could have left the animal struggling for much longer.
Around 12 in the noon, when it was put in a cage, the leopard had almost collapsed. On reaching the veterinary hospital in Hoshiarpur, the officers declared it dead. It was estimated to be three and a half year old.
The leopard entered village Khangwari-20 kilometres from Dholbaha, some time in the night but villagers spotted it in the morning. "As soon as we saw it, we informed the department", said Kandi Vikas Manch president Karnail Singh. DFO (Wildlife) Satnam Singh, however claimed he received the information around 8.30am and had reached the site in an hour.
According to him, the animal died of shock and heat stroke. Denying negligence on part of the officials, he said the staff acted as quickly as it could. "You can not use the gun on animals recklessly", he quipped.
Wildlife conservator Ratnakumar, who was told about the death on his way to Hoshiarpur, said the department would find out if there was any lapse on the part of local officers. "Let the autopsy report first ascertain the cause of death. We'll take action if negligence is proved", he said. As for other inadequacies, he said the matter would be taken up with higher authorities..
The death of the leopard has sparked off anger in animal lovers. Rattan, a conservationist from Himachal Pardesh, who arrived in Khangwari on being informed about the presence of the animal, alleged that the department had mishandled the operation.
"The officials took too much time to rescue the animal. It was appalling to see that the gun they had brought was not in a working order". He also criticized the police for not controlling the crowd which he claimed "overstressed" the animal.
Sukhdeep Singh Bajwa, a former honorary wildlife warden squarely blamed the officials for the incident. "In the last 14 months, five wild cats have died in Hoshiarpur and Ropar forest ranges which is very shocking. What is the use of spending millions on a separate wildlife wing if our precious animals were to die out like this", he remarked.
"It is sad that the department does not have a veterinary expert and has to seek the services of the veterinary department in time of need", he added. Another former wildlife warden Gunraj Singh too was critical of the way the whole operation was handled.
"The officers kept fiddling with their phones even as the animal struggled for life. A timely action could have saved its life", he said.