Tuesday, Jul 05, 2022

Maharashtra: Leopard Attack Frequency Rises, Angry Villagers Hold Forest Staffers 'Hostage'

Frequent incidents of attacks on humans by leopards  over the past couple of months had triggered huge panic and unrest among the local residents.

Representational Image
Representational Image PTI

Angry villagers of the Durgapur area of Maharashtra's Chandrapur district who were disappointed with the forest department's inefficiency in controlling the repeated incidents of man-animal conflict held some forest staffers "hostage" for a few hours on Friday.

In a bid to calm the angry villagers, the forest department personnel tranquilised and captured a leopardess in the wee hours of Friday, confirmed an official.

Frequent incidents of attacks on humans by leopards over the past couple of months had triggered huge panic and unrest among the local residents.

Leopard attack incidents

The latest such incident had occurred in the area on May 10, in which a girl was injured.

Sources in the forest department said a leopard had entered the human residential area in Durgapur and attacked a three-year-old girl playing in the yard on Tuesday. But, the minor's mother managed to save her by snatching her from the clutches of the feline. The girl, Araksha Popalwar, who suffered injuries in the attack, was admitted to Chandrapur District General Hospital.

A few days ago, an incident was reported in the same area where a woman fought off a leopard to save her daughter from its jaw. The three-year-old child was reportedly having her dinner sitting in the courtyard of the house when a leopard suddenly pounced on her and dragged her away. In a bid to save the child, her mother chased the leopard with a stick and hit it on its mouth which made the leopard drop the child and escape.

The child sustained severe injuries and was admitted to a nearby hospital where she is still kept under medical attention.

The mother of the child, Jyoti Pupalwar, said, “My daughter was having food while I had gone to bathe. When I came out, I saw the leopard attacking her and taking her away.” She added, “even after the leopard dropped my child, I had to repeatedly attack it so that it ran away and didn't attack us again.”

According to sources, three persons previously were killed in separate incidents of attacks by leopards in the area, which occurred on February 17, March 30 and May 1.

How did the forest department respond to the crisis?

Following the recent incident, the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF), Chandrapur circle, had issued shoot-at-sight orders to kill the leopard.

The operation to capture the leopardess was conducted by the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) of Chandrapur forest range and Rapid Response Team (RRT) of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), the official said.

When a forest ranger and five other personnel of the department reached the spot sometime later, the angry villagers held them, hostage, for a few hours on Tuesday night, demanding that immediate action be taken against the big cat. The incident created tension in Durgapur and police as well as forest department officials came to the site to pacify the villagers. However, the villagers released the forest range officer and other employees five hours later, only after the department issued a shoot-at-sight order to kill the leopard, they said.

"During the wee hours of Friday, the RRT of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and RRU of Chandrapur range successfully tranquilised the troublesome animal from the Durgapur jungle area," the senior official said.

(with PTI inputs)