KARNATAKA

Second such incident in 12 years in Kolar district

With hillocks and sparse vegetation, the rocky terrain of Kolar district is seeing a significant number of leopards coexist with humans. However, while Kolar has witnessed several head of cattle and sheep being killed by leopards, Sunday’s death of 48-year-old Venkatesh, a labourer, was just the second such incident being reported in the last 12 years in the district.

“The hillocks around are a good habitat for leopards, and we suspect around four of them being here. There have been instances of goats and sheep being attacked in the area, but not humans. Even the villagers narrate stories of encounters with leopards where the felines scurry away,” said Ramalinga Gowda, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Kolar district.

It was in 2005 that a man and his son were killed by leopards at Arabhikottanur in Kolar taluk. However, what sets apart Sunday’s incident was the “rare occurrence” of flesh being eaten by the leopard after the attack. “Attack on humans may be owing to provocation or stress. But eating human flesh is very rare, and difficult to explain. Leopards are very adaptive and usually afraid of humans,” said Vidya Athreya, a Mumbai-based researcher specialising in leopard behaviour.

With the Forest Department aiming to trap and relocate the leopard, the researcher warns that this is counter-productive. “Apart from instances of leopards making their way back to the site of capture, research has shown that there is an increased chance of attacks in areas where relocated leopards have been released. Relocation causes stress in these leopards,” said Ms. Athreya, who suggested that the leopard be captured and placed in rescue centre instead.

The Forest Department officials said numerous leopards had been trapped in the area in the past and released in Bandipur or Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. However, in many cases, these leopards have come back to Kolar district and were “more difficult to trap”.