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Leopard attacks continue in Uttarakhand as forest dept cautious on shoot orders

The forest department faces the challenge of taming leopards on the prowl after the Uttarakhand high court ordered a ban on the killing of wild animals that are declared man-eaters, officials said.

dehradun Updated: Apr 09, 2018 21:56 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand news,Leopard attacks,Shoot orders
According to Uttarakhand forest department data, 159 leopards were declared man-eaters till October 2017, of which 44 were shot dead between 2006 and 2016.(HT File Photo)

The forest department faces the challenge of taming leopards on the prowl after the Uttarakhand high court ordered a ban on the killing of wild animals that are declared man-eaters, officials said.

The department has been cautious in declaring attacking animals as man-eaters and giving shoot-at-sight orders after the HC order in December 2016, which was later stayed by the Supreme Court. But big cat attacks have not come down in the state.

Hari Nagri in Bageshwar district, about 325km from the state capital, is rattled by leopard attacks. On March 23, a five-year-old boy was lifted by a leopard, and his half-eaten body was later found 500 metre from his house. On April 7, a woman was attacked in the area.

Officials said four people were killed in 2017 by leopards in the Bageshwar division, home to over 136 leopards, and 10 were attacked.

The department has not yet declared the prowling leopard in Hari Nagri a man-eater. Forest officials are on its trail with tranquilising teams and veterinarians to dart the animal.

“We have put cages and are ready to tranquilise the animal. Our teams are in the field closely monitoring its movement,” said RK Singh, divisional forest officer (DFO), Bageshwar.

After the HC order, 13 leopards in the state were declared a threat to human lives last year, but no animal was killed. Officials said the problem leopards were lifted from the sites and were either housed in rescue centres or released in forests.

The HC order had said a committee comprising the principal secretary (forest) and the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) would study the cases before declaring a leopard a man-eater. The order neutralised the powers of the chief wildlife warden, who has the responsibility under the Wildlife Protection Act to decide if an animal poses a potential risk to human life.

“If an animal becomes a threat, there’s no way we would want to kill it. We are strengthening our system so that animals which are potential threat could be housed,” said Jai Raj, head of forest force (HoFF) and PCCF.

According to forest department data, 159 leopards were declared man-eaters till October 2017, of which 44 were shot dead between 2006 and 2016. In 2016, seven leopards were shot dead after they were declared man-eaters. The highest number of culling of the big cat was reported in 2009 when 13 leopards were shot dead.

No leopard was killed in the last 15 months.

First Published: Apr 09, 2018 21:55 IST