Villagers set a leopard afire at Madhogarh village in Alwar’s Sariska Tiger Reserve on Saturday afternoon, after they found that it had killed a man and eaten parts of his body.
They then set up a blockade on the Jaipur-Alwar state highway, demanding Rs 10 lakh as compensation and a government job for the deceased’s next of kin. It was lifted only after the forest department handed over a cheque of Rs 4 lakh to the victim’s brother, and assured the villagers that they would seek the remaining money from the state government.
The man, identified as Rampat Gujjar, was the seventh person to be killed by leopards in the villages of Sariska since last year. Two people were killed between September and October at Pratapgarh in 2016, followed by four fatal attacks in February this year.
In the wake of these incidents, the forest department caged seven leopards and whisked them out of the reserve. Madhogarh, which falls in the Akbarpur forest range, is located about 40 km from the place where the last leopard was caught.
According to sources, villagers saw the half-eaten body of 30-year-old Gujjar near a bus stop on the Jaipur-Alwar highway. A leopard was also seen sitting on a hill near the bus stop.
As word of the likely leopard attack spread, villagers armed with wooden sticks and stones began chasing it. Around noon, a team of forest officials reached the spot and shot it with a tranquiliser dart. However, the animal managed to enter a cave before losing consciousness.
That was when the enraged villagers took over. They threw stones at forest and police officers trying to follow the leopard up the hill, injuring additional superintendent of police Paras Jain and deputy superintendent of police SM Nagora in the process. Around 1 pm, a few villagers – taking advantage of the chaos – piled firewood and dry grass on the tranquilised leopard and set it on fire.
“We have collected the remains of the animal for a post-mortem examination. Legal action will be taken against the guilty parties,” said tiger reserve field director RS Shekhawat. Forest officials confirmed that leopard tracks were found near Gujjar’s body.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) GV Reddy said that while the villager’s death was unfortunate, setting fire to the leopard was no solution. “We did not even get a chance to look into the circumstances surrounding his death,” he added. The state forest department has registered a case against unknown people under the Forest Act 9/51 (punishment for hunting).
Leopards are listed as an endangered species under schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.