Uttarakhand forest department officials led by private hunter Lakhpat Singh Rawat killed a suspected man-eater leopard in Maikhali village in Chamoli district on Sunday night.
The killing irked wildlife activists, who said the officials could have trapped the animal, especially as the leopard was carrying two foetuses in its womb. Forest officials, however, said they did not know that the leopard was pregnant. The seven-year-old leopard had attacked a five-year-old girl at Badiyasem village in central Uttarakhand’s Gairsain area on April 7. And when it was reportedly about to attack a boy outside his home in Maikholi village, the forest department team, led by Singh, shot it.
Rajendra Agarwal, president of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Uttarakhand, said, “The forest department seemed to have been in a hurry. If they studied the animal’s behaviour, it wouldn’t have been difficult to judge that it was pregnant.” Sameer Sinha of the World Wildlife Fund told HT, “The first step should be to rescue the animal. Killing is the last resort.”
Experts said while the National Tiger Conservation Authority had stipulated that a tiger could be declared a man-eater after killing six humans, there was no such rule in case of leopards. In most states, it’s the chief wildlife warden who takes the call. The activists also challenged the forest department’s claim that the leopard had killed six children, as another man-eater leopard was also roaming in the area.
However, chief wildlife warden Shrikant Chandola said, “The villagers have confirmed that it was the same leopard. And we didn’t have any choice as they were highly agitated.”