The big cat that kept forest officials on tenterhooks for about 15 hours before it was finally shot dead may have strayed either from vegetated patches in defence land or the Bannerghatta forest area. With a broken canine tooth, the animal had ventured into urban landscape in search of easy prey.
The male leopard, aged between 10 and 12 years, first spotted on Saturday night at 4th cross in AECS Layout near M.S. Dhoni Global School in Kudlu gate, was shot dead on Wednesday. The Forest Department said they killed the leopard after exhausting every option after it attacked two personnel in the team deployed for the capture.
The aging leopard, which had a broken tooth, was incapable of hunting in its habitat. Driven by survival instincts, the cat lurked out of the woods to hunt stray dogs. The animal may had been starving, officials added.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Wildlife, Subhash K. Malkhede talking to The Hindu said they suspect that the animal may have emerged out of defence land covered with thick vegetation, which is a habitat for leopards and other animals. A patch of forest-like cover can be seen beginning from near Kudlu Gate spreading up to Trinity Circle.
Mr. Malkhede further said there is also a possibility that the animal may have come out from Bannerghatta forest area which is also a natural habitat for both leopards and tigers. In these areas, it is unusual for leopards to walk out into urban pockets unless it has lost prowess due to age factor.
Officials said leopards, unlike tigers, are highly adaptive animals and they can hunt anything, including monkeys, bats, and crocodiles. The leopard can climb a tree to catch bats and monkeys. Both in Bannerghatta and vegetated patches of defence land, animal diversity supports the needs of the predators.
Mr. Malkhede said, “This animal, which was aged over 10, had broken a canine tooth which makes it hard to hunt its prey in the woods. It cannot kill its hunt with a broken canine and realising that it cannot carry out the hunt with precision, the animal comes out.” He said this leopard was so weak that it was seen in CCTV footage being chased by dogs.
Asked about the density of leopards in Bengaluru, he said the Forest Department has not done any census and to understand it, camera traps should be placed in forest pockets.
Another forest official said with desperation for food, there was every possibility of an attack against humans. “In this area, labourers reside in tents and their children play outside. There was danger of the lurking animal attacking the children. The department had no option but to kill it,” the official said.