Runaway leopard keeps New Year crowd away at north Bengal safari park for second day
A large portion of North Bengal Wild Animals Park, a popular attraction for New Year crowd, remained out of bounds for the second consecutive day as a leopard that escaped from its enclosure on January 1 morning continued to evade capture till Wednesday evening.
Sachin, a male adult leopard, had jumped out of the nearly-20-feet tall enclosure wall from the branch of a tree.
Although a search operation involving four elephants, vehicles and wildlife squads from Malbazar, Sukna and Darjeeling continued for the second day, the leopard was nowhere to be found in the 297-hectare park. It also evaded traps placed on Tuesday night.
Authorities decided to close the park for public on Tuesday when thousands of holiday crowd had reached to celebrate New Year’s day.
Located on the outskirts of Siliguri, the project was inaugurated by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on January 21 2016. Tigers, leopard and black bears are major attractions that visitors view from specially designed buses.
Rajendra Jakar, director of the park said, “Though the leopard jumped out of its enclosure, it is unlikely that it would jump the outer fencing of the park. Since Sachin has spent most of its lifetime in captivity, it has lost its ability to hunt.”
Residents of nearby villages such as Toribari, Singhijhora, Majwa and Betgara fear that the animal might enter human settlements.
Leopards entering human settlements have become a regular feature in the tea gardens of Dooars. Since December 12, leopards have killed two children and injured two adults in tea gardens in Alipurduar district. Sachin had recently injured a driver of the park when he went inside the enclosure to feed it.
A senior forest officer involved in the search operation said, “It appears the animal climbed the tree and actually jumped a distance of about 30 feet to land outside the enclosure.”
The park has a mixed herbivore safari spread over 91 hectares and separate safaris for tiger, leopard and black bear, each spread over 20 hectare. The leopard safari in the park is spread over 20 hectares and includes four leopards, that has Sachin also. In 2017-18, the park earned a revenue of ₹35 million and the figure is likely to increase in 2018-19.
Animesh Bose, programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation (HNAF), said, “The incident has given birth to many questions. Who saw the leopard jumping out of the enclosure? why were the trees near the enclosure fence not trimmed despite the fact that leopards are natural climbers? And how could the leopard that spent most of its time in captivity jump from such a height?”