2-year-old leopard, stuck in power cables in Gurugram, electrocuted to death
A two-year-old female leopard was electrocuted to death in Sohna’s Lala Kherli village early Thursday, after the animal got ensnared in an overhead high-tension power cable on the outskirts of the village.
Locals found the animal dangling precariously from the power lines just after 6am, following which officials from the wildlife department fetched the corpse and sent it for a post-mortem examination. Autopsy results confirmed that the leopard had died as a result of electrical burns, which left parts of her body, including her mandibles, severely burnt. The animal was cremated at 2pm near Sultanpur National Park.
The leopard was first discovered by Satvir Singh, a resident of Lala Kherli, around 6.15am on Thursday, while he was walking to a nearby temple (where he is a caretaker), about a kilometre outside the settlement. “The leopard was hanging from the wires by its belly. At first, I thought it was alive and froze. Then, I noticed its blackened face and realised it had probably died of an electric shock,” said Singh, who immediately sent word to the village sarpanch.
By 8.30am, over two dozen villagers had gathered at the spot to catch a glimpse of the leopard’s body, which was sent for the autopsy by 9am, forest department officials said. Located in the foothills of the Aravalli range, the outskirts of Lala Kherli village are densely populated with wildlife, with locals claiming frequent sightings of jackals, nilgai, peacocks and wild pigs.
“The autopsy has proved what we suspected. It seems the leopard had climbed up a tree that was extremely close to a power line, perhaps in pursuit of a monkey or a peacock. Unfortunately, the leopard’s face came in contact with the cable, electrocuting her and causing her death,” said Shyam Sundar Kaushik, district forest officer (wildlife), Gurugram. He clarified that the leopard, which weighed in at 30kgs, was not pregnant.
The incident also caused a power outage in Lala Kherli village, which was without electricity from about 2.30am till 10am the next day, indicating that the leopard might have died around 2.30am. A visit to the site by an HT team on Thursday afternoon also revealed that the animal had died just adjacent to a water body, where villagers said wild animals often drink from, especially in summer.
Activists responded to the leopard’s death by berating the forest department. Vaishali Rana Chandra, a local environmentalist, said, “The forest department is not doing enough to ensure enough water supply for the animals. If we can create sufficient resources within the forest, such conflicts can be avoided,” she said.
Kaushik, however, maintained that the wildlife department is proactively filling up water holes at various locations in the Aravallis.
Wildlife expert Pia Sethi, of the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said, “This seems like a freak accident as there are no major power lines running through the region’s leopard habitat.”
Sethi pointed out that the MoEF’s guidelines for laying transmission lines through forest areas need to be followed so as to avoid a repeat of such situations. According to the guidelines, revised in 2016, the minimum distance between an electrical conductor and a tree needs to be at least 2.6 metres, whereas, in the case of Thursday’s incident, the power line which killed the leopard was running directly through the tree.
The guidelines also state that only insulated conductors should be installed in wildlife corridors to avoid electrocution of animals, and also recommend the use of underground power cables, instead of overhead ones