Frequent sighting of leopards in residential areas adjoining the Kottiyoor forest has raised concerns among local people. The Forest department is in a fix as officials are unable to trace the animal and residents are threatening to go on a protest. Fear has gripped the residents of Muzhakunnu panchayat after workers tapping rubber at a plantation near the P.R. Memorial School saw a leopard from close proximity on Monday. They immediately ran to safety.
The Rapid Respond Team of the department, led by deputy ranger Sasi Kumar, launched a combing operation to trace the animal. However, they could not spot it. The department said monitoring will be intensified.
On Sunday, another leopard was reportedly sighted at Kavumbadi Mukku, near Thillankeri, about a km away from Muzhakunnu. Residents at Vendekumchal, the fifth ward under Kelakam panchayat, also reported the presence of a leopard on the day.
Anu Jobin, a housewife, claimed to have seen the leopard on the road adjacent to her backyard. Fearing an animal attack, students are afraid to go to school and rubber tapping in the area has taken a hit. Farmers and labourers at Meesakavala too reportedly spotted a leopard on a tree branch.=
Kottiyoor Forest Ranger Sudheer Neroth said the animals venture into these plantations as they have thick vegetation. Easy availability of prey could be another reason why they stray into these areas. However, they have not found any dead prey even after conducting an intensive search. As per guidelines, they can only patrol the area and fix cameras to locate the animals, he said.