Indian authorities hunt leopard that killed two children

Deadly attacks in Uttarakhand prompt massive search for wild cat

A handout photo of Sujan's Jawai Leopard Camp in Rajasthan, India (Courtesy: Sujan) *** Local Caption ***  UT28NO-WTGW-JAWAI.jpg
Powered by automated translation

A team of experts is urgently hunting a leopard that killed two children in India’s northern Uttarakhand state.

The forest department in Pauri district, in the lower Himalayas, has established a team of 50 experts to find and catch the animal after it killed a second child.

The leopard killed a four-year-old boy, in an attack witnessed by his family, while he was playing in the courtyard of his house in Srinagar on Sunday night.

The boy’s body was recovered about 20 metres away from his house.

On Saturday the leopard killed an 11-year-old boy in the village of Gawad. He was playing in the courtyard of his house with three other children when the leopard pounced, fatally injuring him.

The incidents have caused panic in the region and forced authorities to spring into action.

The team of 50 experts, including vets, have set up more than 20 camera traps across the district to track the leopard, said Samir Sinha, Uttarakhand's chief wildlife warden.

“We have deployed a large number of cages, teams of forest officers and [vets] with tranquillising guns. We will try to identify the animal responsible for the death, capture it and only as a last resort for public safety, we will destroy it,” Mr Sinha told The National.

“These animals are apex predators. They are experts in the art of camouflage and the art of hunting, and sometimes also move large distances, so it is never easy trying to capture them.”

India has a population of more than 12,800 leopards, according to government data.

There are more than 3,100 leopards in Uttarakhand, which has densely forested, hilly terrain in which the big cats thrive.

More than 500 people were killed in leopard attacks in the state between 2000 and 2023, with over 1,800 injured, the forest department said in report last year.

As many as 1,650 leopards were also killed between 2001 and 2023 in accidents, fights, poaching and by electrocution, among other reasons.

The state government has upped its efforts to prevent leopard attacks or the killing of the animals by preventing them from straying into human settlements, Mr Sinha said.

The authorities have set up a toll-free phone number for people to report leopard sightings. In the last six months, 400 calls have been made, Mr Sinha said.

“We have taken lots of institutional measures which are yielding results, like we have set up a human-animal conflict mitigation cell that has animal specialists who track the animals minutely, identify patterns and hotspots,” he said.

“We are also reaching out to people and making efforts to make them aware of the issue and advise them in terms of keeping safe from such animals.

“The key is not to be afraid but to be cautious,” Mr Sinha said.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 11:51 AM