A large group of villagers beat a wild leopard to death at Gandarpur, around 17 km from here, on Thursday. The incident took place early in the morning when the animal, believed to have strayed from the Athagarh forest, injured two persons in the village on the banks of the river Kuakhai.
The two-year-old leopard inflicted mere bruises on two persons before being chased away by the people. The Nandankanan Zoological Park nearby was immediately informed.
In the meantime, hundreds of villagers gathered at the spot. With a television camera capturing the action, they went berserk after spotting the animal behind a bush. They attacked it with whatever objects they came across, allowing it no room for escape.
By the time officials of the Nandankanan Zoological Park reached the spot with a tranquilliser expert and a net, it was all over.
“It was a very unfortunate incident. Had the people waited for 10 minutes, we could have saved its life. People appeared to have killed the leopard for fun,” P.N. Padhi, Chief Wildlife Warden, told The Hindu.
“Before the villagers killed the animal, Forest Department staff members had surveyed the area and found the leopard hiding comfortably behind a bush. We could have easily captured it,” he said.
He said an inquiry was ordered, and culprits would be booked under the Wildlife Protection Act. City Divisional Forest Officer Jayant Das said the carcass was sent for post-mortem.
A Forest Department official hinted that action could be taken against the television reporter, who in pursuit of exclusive visuals reportedly instigated the villagers to attack the leopard, a Schedule I animal under the Act.