Special Correspondent

'Efforts will be stepped up to catch the animals'

Udhagamandalam: With a leopard falling into a trap and later escaping from the cage, there was high drama at Pazhathottam near Hubathalai on Thursday night.

Request made

It was stated that about a month ago, four leopards including a female and two cubs had moved into a cave on a hillock, about one km from Pazhathottam.

Some of the residents of Pazhathottam and Erichamedu had spotted them and consequently a request was made to the Forest Department to take appropriate action.

Though the leopards had killed a few goats and dogs, they had not disturbed the people in any manner.

Following the fear expressed by the villagers that they might attack the people in course of time, District Forest Officer, the Nilgiris North Division, K. Kandaswamy, had directed his staff to chase them away from the area.

Plucking of tea

The people were advised to exercise utmost caution particularly after dusk.

Since the tea garden activities such as plucking of leaf had been affected as workers refused to go to the estates bordering the forest, the forest officials had kept a cage near the hillock about a week ago.

Initially a goat was used as bait, but it was replaced with a dog a couple of days ago.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Thursday, one of the adult leopards presumed to be the male had got caught in the cage.

As the animal was ferocious, no one was allowed to go too close to the cage.

A little while later the other three leopards also reached the spot.

Even as arrangements were being made to deal with the situation after dawn, the ensnared animal managed to escape during the wee hours of Friday after breaking the cage.

Forest Ranger Mr. Sachidanandham said that efforts to catch the animals and translocate them would be stepped up.