Narsapur (Medak): A four-year-old female leopard and its two male cubs of eight months were found dead in Sherkhanpalli of Hathnoora mandal in the Nagaram reserve forest area on Friday.
The bodies, in advanced stage of decomposition, were found in three different spots in a radius of hundred meters by the forest rangers close to the Nathnaipalli-Jinnaram road that passes through the deciduous forest. While the skin and nails of the two cubs were found intact, the nails of the mother were found missing.
The remains of the three leopards bore no marks of external injuries, strengthening the poisoning theory of the rangers.
Speaking to The Hindu Forest Range officer M. Balreddy said that they received a phone call from the Sherkhanpalli Vanasamrakshana Samithi on late night of Thursday about the death of the leopards.
He pointed out that the leopards might have been poisoned to death either by shepherds or accidentally swallowed poisonous bait laid for killing crop damaging animals in the vicinity.
Forest section officer M. Laxman said a leopard was recently spotted by a motorcyclist on the Narsapur-Hyderabad road last week and the section has at least 20 leopards according to the pug marks found during 2006 census.
Refuting allegation of purposeful poisoning, VSS chairman Chitti Anjaiah said that the local people have no grudge against the wild animals as they never troubled the locals.
Assistant veterinary surgeon of Medak division V. Krishna Rao who conducted autopsy on the spot told that there were strong indications that the leopards consumed some poison and died at least three to four days ago.
The viscera is being sent to the AP Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad for confirmation. He opined that the thirsty leopards might have consumed the water mixed with pesticide granules and the poison might have acted on them slowly.
He ruled out the involvement of smugglers as the skins of all the three animals were found intact.
He said that some villagers might have removed the nails of the mother leopard because of its curative and mystic value.