Leopards straying into in villages nestling along the forest fringes in the State, attacking people and their cattle have become a matter of serious concern.
The killing of a healthy female leopard that had strayed into the small hamlet of Angamoozhy in the Ranni forest division by an unruly mob on Tuesday was the latest in the series of human-leopard conflict in the State.
Three weeks ago, a five-year old boy was fatally dragged by a leopard from the company of his father and brother at Athirappally in Ernakulam district. The boy’s body was found, later, in the surrounding area and the leopard was not traced.
In another tragic incident, a four-year old boy was killed by a leopard on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Idukki district a year ago.
Killing of a Tiger by the villagers was also reported from the Munnar Forest division when the animal attacked a woman worker a year ago.
As many as four leopards were fatally trapped by humans in Idukki in 2011, according to Mr M.N. Jayachandran, secretary of Society for Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals in Idukki.
Tuesday’s killing of a female leopard had evoked concern and criticism from animal-lovers across the State.
The ferocious animal that had killed two domesticated dogs in the village went into hiding in the bushes adjoining a rubber plantation closeby a school. The entire village, including the local panchayat president and a former District Panchayat member, thronged the spot.
The animal that came out after a five-hour wait inside the bush was more or less overpowered by a man from Kollam, Kuttan alias Vettu Kuttan, who claimed to be an expert in trapping of leopards. However the leopard was suffocated to death when 50 to 100 enthusiastic people swooped on the animal, thrusted their weight on it, plugging its mouth and nostrils, later, leaving the nearly 50 Forest department and Police personnel mere mute spectators of the tragic episode.
The violent mob even blocked the vehicle of the Divisional Forest Officer, R. Kamalahar, and other Forest personnel, when he had directed the Range Officer to register case in connection with the killing of the wild animal.
A local granite quarry group had even granted Rs 50,000 to Vettu Kuttan and another group from Ernakulam had announced cash worth Rs 1 lakh to him in recognition of his ‘valour’, later.
Mr M.S. Rajendran, former District Panchayat member, told The Hindu that incidents of leopards attacking cattle and people were on the rise in Angamoozhy, Seethathode and Chittar villages. The local people were left with little option other than taking their own measures for protecting themselves from the wild animal attacks as the Forest department failed to ensure their safety, he said.
Dr Gopakumar, veterinary surgeon, said the leopard was a healthy one and the death was due to suffocation.
Meanwhile, the Forest department has registered a case against Kuttan under Wildlife Protection Act and an arrest warrant has been issued against him by the Goodrickal Forest Range Officer, H.T. Jose.
Reports received here say that Kuttan who was injured in the attack by the leopard has been admitted to a private hospital in Kollam.
The Thrissur-based animal-lovers’ forum, Heritage Task Force (HTF), has condemned the killing of leopard in an avoidable encounter and that too in the presence of the Forest and police officials.
In a letter to Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Union Minister for Forests and Environment, Jayanthi Natarajan, the HTF secretary, V.K.Venkitachalam, alleged that the killing of leopard was carried out by notorious criminals who were let free by the law-enforcing agency even after the commitment of the crime for reasons best known to the authorities concerned.
Mr Venkitachalam alleged that mismanagement on the part of the State Forest Ministry has been leading to all sort of violations of Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act in different parts of the State.
Mr Venkitachalam and Mr Jayachandran further called for stern action against the persons responsible for the tragic death of the wild animal.