20-member forest team on 24X7 duty to trap ‘elusive man-eater’ of Rajaji
17 people have been killed in leopard attacks in the Raiwala stretch since 2014Updated: May 20, 2018 22:31 IST
Raiwala is a small stopover en-route to Dehradun-Haridwar national highway 58. The town has a railway station, an army ammunition depot, crowded market, residential area and Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR).
The RTR forest lies between both the sides of the highway and in between Raiwala stands. Some sign boards could be spotted on the national highway cautioning about the movement of leopards and elephants inside forest but that hardly stops humans from venturing into the forest.
Over the years the row between RTR and human settlement has blurred. Inside the woods, leopards and other wild animals roam freely. Blame it on the man-animal conflict or growing human interference in the forest, 17 people have been killed in leopard attacks in the Raiwala stretch since 2014.
The latest kill made by a leopard was a middle-aged woman who went inside RTR forest earlier this month to collect firewood. Last month, a tourist was killed as he stopped at the highway to attend nature’s call in the area.
RTR management has installed camera traps and also manning entire area. Officials said at least 15 leopards were active in the Raiwala area.
Five of them had been translocated in last 18 months and others are still active. RTR director Sanatan (who goes by the first name) said three leopards have been camera trapped, but it is difficult to say which one is the ‘culprit’.
“Killings happening for two reasons. First, locals or tourist often ignoring the warning and going inside forests. Secondly, the human is an easy catch for the leopard and the cat, it seems, has developed this understanding,” Sanatan told Hindustan Times.
The director with the team of nearly 20 employees has been monitoring the movement of leopards’ since the killing earlier this month.
The employees are engaged 24X7, patrolling in the forest and asking people not to go in the forest.
The director said they are trying to spot the ‘suspect’ and after tranquilising it they will send droppings to ascertain whether it’s a man-eater. A man-eater is relocated to the leopard shelter facility.
It is yet not clear whether it is the same leopard that killed 17 people in the last four years or more leopards were involved in the killings.
Joy Hukul, a veteran hunter who had been engaged in several leopard hunting assignments, said there could be a case if a leopardess had killed a human and its cubs also ate the flesh.
“In such a case, chances are cubs could turn up becoming man-eaters as well. However, in this (Raiwala) case, it appears there is one human eater and it has not be traced,” Joy tells HT.
Meanwhile, the RTR director added that there was no dearth of prey base in the Raiwala area. Several deer and small animals were camera-trapped. Joy agreed that cunning leopard prefers humans over animals.
Uttarakhand is one state which has a high prevalence of man-leopard conflict. The last survey in 2008 reported over 2,600 leopards in the mountain state. Forest statistics suggests nearly 300 humans killed in leopard attacks since the state’s formation in 2000.