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Bengal puts suspected man-eating leopard in its line of fire

The Bengal forest department has launched an operation to capture the leopard which has spread panic across five tea gardens in Alipurduar.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2019 16:08 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hidustan Times, Sliguri
maneater,Leopard,Bengal Forest Department
The leopard is suspected to have killed three children in the tea gardens of Alipurduar in north Bengal.(AFP File Photo)

The Bengal forest department has deployed three teams of shooters with tranquiliser guns to capture a suspected man-eating leopard that has spread panic in five tea gardens of north Bengal for over a month.

The animal is suspected to have killed three children aged 11, 6 and 3 and wounded at least three more persons including two kids in the tea gardens of Alipurduar district between December 12 and January 25. Villagers allege that it is a single leopard that has turned man eater.

The attacks have triggered panic in the area and people stay indoors after sundown. It has also forced them to move only in groups, even during the day. Children are escorted by forest guards when returning from school.

Forty volunteers are keeping a lookout for the beast, while two mobile teams are patrolling the gardens in vehicles. Three more teams armed with tranquiliser guns are scanning the five tea gardens at Lankapara, Garganda, Ramjhora, Tulsipara and Hantapara.

“We suspect a single animal behind the incidents. Tranquillising teams will continue their efforts as long as needed,” said forest minister Binay Krishna Barman.

But the leopard has been elusive so far. Bharat Bhujel a local resident said, “They have laid traps and cages at different spots and goats have been used as baits. Beef baits are also being used. However, the animal has eluded them all so far.”

Ravikant Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden of West Bengal, said the big cat would be killed if it is indeed a man eater.

“If it is confirmed that a particular leopard killed and injured these people, it will be eliminated as per the section 11 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. Human lives are more valuable and all necessary steps will be taken to save them,” Sinha said.

If the animal is killed eventually, it will be the first time since 1926 that a man eating big cat would have been eliminated, forest officers said.

On April 13, 2018, angry villagers killed a Royal Bengal tiger in West Midnapore district after it created panic for about three months in the villages in and around Lalgarh. However, the tiger did not kill any villager.

First Published: Jan 29, 2019 16:08 IST