: Panic has gripped Maruthampara in Perumatty grama panchayat in Chittur taluk after a leopard was sighted twice in the area since Monday.
Divisional Forest Officer of Nemmara Raju K. Francise told The Hindu that “we have not ruled out the presence of the leopard as it was sighted twice and pugmarks were found in the area. We have taken measures to capture the animal. Two cages have been set up. A special team of eight forest officials headed by a Forest Range Officer has been deployed to track the wild animal. Two surveillance cameras have been installed in the area.”
“Two veterinary doctors have been posted to tranquilise the animal when sighted.” There is no cause for alarm,” said Mr. Francis.
But, people residing at Maruthampara, near Vandithavam, are in a state of panic over the last three days. Toddy tappers have not been going to work in the early hours of the day out of fear of leopard attack. Women are reluctant to work in paddy fields in the morning hours.
Toddy tapper Devadas was the first to sight the leopard early Monday. “Since then, I have not gone for tapping. I heard a sound from the bushes while climbing a palm tree. I saw the huge animal come out of the bushes and head towards a mango orchard nearby. I informed the local people and the Forest Department officials. However, when I returned to the site with other villagers, there was no sign of the animal.
Environmentalists have warned the Forest Department against any move to kill the animal. L. Namasivayam, secretary of Natural History Society, said the “leopard was an endangered animal covered under the Wildlife Protection Act-1972, Schedule I. It has the same status of tiger. The Forest Department should study the reasons why wild animals strayed into human settlements instead of killing them in the name of protecting human lives. In the case of the tiger in Wayanad, it was not a man-eater. Under the law, the animal can be killed only if it is a man-eater,” he said.
The leopard sighted at Maruthampara has not lifted any cattle or attacked humans. So there is no cause for the people to be concerned about their safety.
Capturing or killing straying animals is not a solution to the problem, Mr. Namasivayam said.