Guns out for maneater on the prowl
Forest dept unleashes a 50-strong team of hunters, trackers with orders to shoot after leopard attacks kill 4 in villages near Surat
As panic gripped villagers in Mandvi and Mahuva taluka — four have died in leopard attacks in the last few months — forest officials have unleashed a 50-strong team of hunters, trackers, and lion experts from Gir to track and if necessary, shoot to kill the big cats that seem to have turned maneaters.
The foresters are trying to ascertain if it is a lone leopard, which is responsible for the four deaths.
Deputy Conservator of Forest A G Vasawa said, "We have launched a hunt. We have fired two rounds at one leopard who got injured but escaped in the standing crops of sugarcane. This is for the first time in south Gujarat that shoot-at-sight orders have been given by chief conservator of forests as the leopard seems to have turned a maneater. Similar order was given in the Panchmahals a few years ago when leopards killed eight persons in different villages. We are trying our best to catch them or shoot them."
Forest officials have also invited prince Yuvrajsinh Bhagirathsinh of Utera village nearby Ahmedabad and one Mohammedbhai from Rander, both professional hunters, to kill the leopard.
On late Friday night, the team was able to spot a leopard just a kilometre away from Vareli village in Mandvi taluka. The officials fired two rounds. The big cat was injured and blood stains could be seen in the sugarcane fields. The team followed the trail but the leopard remained elusive.
On Saturday morning, forest officials rushed to Bhatkai village in Mandvi taluka after the village sarpanch informed them that the injured leopard had been trapped in the cage but officials said it was not the one responsible for the four deaths.
The team on the hunt comprises over 50 foresters, among them experts from Sasan Gir who deal with lions and lionesses. But experts said there is vast difference in the behaviuor of leopards and lions. Leopards, they said, are more alert and easily hide in the bushes, whereas lions often attack frontally.
On November 18, two young leopards were caught in a cage placed on the river banks, while another one was caught in a cage kept in sugarcane fields in Kamlapore village of Mandvi taluka. The third one, however, broke the cage somehow and escaped before forest officials could reach the spot. The other two, both nearly one-year-old, were taken to the local forest office and one of them died on Friday night.
The forest officials have installed over 25 cages in seven villages where pug marks of leopards were seen earlier.
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