Leopard leaves Bannerghatta park officials stupefied

In the T-2 (Kanchanganga) enclosure of the Rescue Centre of Bannerghatta National Park, 15-year-old Kartik, a male tiger sits nonchalantly, unaware of the scramble its neighbour has triggered.

Before dawn, the five-year-old male leopard – which had been described as being agitated since its capture more than a week ago – did what no other feline in the 16-year-old rescue centre did — break free.

How did it escape?

While the Forest Department is yet to ascertain how the leopard escaped, the most plausible theory – as explained to The Hindu by officials – is a testimony to the animal’s agility. In the main enclosure, the gate to a smaller treatment cage is controlled by a counter-weight. The leopard managed to reach out to the rope holding the counter-weight and pull it down. This opens the trap door, if only slightly, and it made its way to the treatment cage.

The cage is surrounded on three sides with vertical grills. The roof has a metal mesh with six-inch square openings. The feline managed to squeeze through this and then spring out into the ‘kraal enclosure’. From here, the tall trees allowed the agile animal to hop over the 20-feet barbed wire and electrified fence into the open.

While over 21 leopards are housed for treatment or observation at the Rescue Centre, officials said the captured leopard had been kept in a unit meant for tigers – where the kraal area is wooded.

“The leopard has been housed there as other leopard enclosures are full. It had to be kept in an enclosure for treatment and to be fed. It was never intended to be released into the kraal area. The leopard has managed to get past three barriers of security,” said Ravi Ralph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife).

The Forest Department has initiated an investigation to the incident, and a report is expected in a week.

Veterinary doctor Nirupama, who was tending to the leopard, described the feline as agitated and restless in the days after its capture. The leopard had lost a canine and has cloudy vision in one eye – symptomatic of cataract.

Second escape in one month

In the T-5 enclosure, a Himalayan black bear – whose face has erupted in boils due to skin allergy – presses agitatedly against the grills and mounts the metal doors keeping it within the narrow enclosure.

On January 28, when allowed to walk to the kraal area, the bear – brought from Tripura six months ago – pried open a mesh, hopped over a dry moat and fled into the forest. A massive hunt followed. It was eventually captured in Baigehalli village, nearly 6 km away, after a dramatic tussle. The operation involved 150 officials, use of tranquiliser darts and a few elephants.

Forest officials had then called it an ‘isolated’ incident. Ravi Ralph, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said the cages were of international standards.

Vibgyor reopens

Students in Vibgyor High in Marathahalli, where the leopard was captured, re-opened after a one-week break. Although students and teachers were ready to resume from where left off before the leopard episode, the animal became the topic of discussion again after its escape on Monday.

The management stepped up security measures, including laying barbed wire along the compound.

Roshan D’Souza, Principal, Vibgyor High Marathahalli, said that the school has increased lighting and added nine CCTV cameras taking the total to 300. Besides, the number of security personnel at night has been increased from eight to 12. Iron gates have been installed in some parts of the campus. Around 2,950 children study in the school.

Although classes have resumed, many schools in and around Sarjapur, Marathahalli and Varthur have suspended outdoor activities until further notice.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 4:29:48 PM |

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