Man-eating leopard on the prowl in Uttar Pradesh

April 30th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by admin  

Lucknow, April 30 (IANS) Having devoured three people, a man-eating leopard is on the prowl around certain villages in Lakhimpur-Kheri district, about 200 Km from here. The victims include an 11-year-old girl and a woman, who were picked up by the leopard from sugarcane fields that dot the terai belt on the Himalayan foothills close to the Indo-Nepal border.

Besides, three children mauled by the animal are currently hospitalized in the Lakhimpur-Kheri district hospital.

While the leopard had been on the prowl for nearly two months, wildlife officials realised the gravity of the problem after two people were killed on two successive days - April 23 and April 24 .

“An 11-year-old girl was picked up by the leopard in Jaithra village in full view of her family members, while a 25-year-old woman was attacked from the neighbouring Chaura village barely 24 hours later,” Lakhimpur-Kheri district forest officer (DFO) K.K. Singh told IANS.

Asked why the animal had not yet been declared a man-eater even after three kills, Singh said: “Declaring a tiger or a leopard a man-eater is a long process, but we are making efforts to trap the animal.”

State chief wildlife conservator D.N.S. Suman said: “We are going to dispatch a special team trained in use of tranquiliser guns. If we do not succeed in our efforts and the animal strikes again, we may be compelled to take the unpleasant decision of gunning it down.”

He said: “Increasing infiltration by the human population into the wildlife habitat is responsible for the rise in the incidence of human killing… Encroachment into forest land by influential farm owners in large parts of the terai belt has led to frequent close encounters between the human population and animals.”

He attributed human killings to unabated expansion of farmlands. “Sugarcane fields in the region provide ideal cover for tigers and leopards and once they find an easy prey in humans, they get into the habit of targeting men, women and children,” he said.

Earlier in January, when wildlife officials discovered a badly mauled body of a middle-aged man in yet another village in the neighourhood of Dudhwa national park, it was believed to be the task of a man-eater. However, since the kill was not repeated, officials gave up its pursuit.

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