By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, January 7: An injured leopard, which found refuge at a residence in the Shantipur area of the city after it was reportedly captured by encroachers in the hills, was tranquilized and trapped by forest officials on Wednesday.
The helpless leopard, which ended up in captivity every time it was in pursuit of freedom, is now battling for life.
This is the fifth leopard to be trapped by forest officials in the last couple of months in the city.
It was around 8.30 am on Wednesday when retired professor Dharmeswar Sarma’s wife spotted the leopard in the room of their maid. The animal was a male adult.
“The maid kept the door open and went out. After sometime, when my wife went to close the door, she spotted the leopard and immediately bolted the door from outside,” Sarma said.
Sarma’s house is located at Pragjyotishpur Road on the Shantipur Hillside. Scared yet curious locals assembled at the area to have a view of the helpless animal which growled intermittently, apparently in pain.
A team of forest department officials, including doctors, reached the spot at around 11.30 am.
The big cat was tranquilized and then trapped at around 1.30 pm.
“We suspect that the leopard was sred by encroachers in the hills a couple of days back. There were injury marks on the body. In fact, we saw an iron wire wedged to the body of the animal and portions of its piercing it. Perhaps, it was injured when it tried to break free from the trap laid by the encroachers,” ACF Mrigen Barua said.
The tranquilized animal was rushed to the State zoo where it was operated upon.
“The surgery was successful. The iron wire was removed. But I am afraid the animal is not out of danger. It is being kept under observation,” Barua said.
Encroachment in the hills has threatened the habitat of the leopards whose population is said to be on the rise. Their depleting habitat has forced the big cats to stray into human habitats, often landing them in death traps.
Earlier, The Sentinel had reported about sightings by forest officials which had revealed how the predators were sharing space with human populations in the city. Though no leopard census has been conducted, forest department sources said there could be over 30 leopards moving in and around the city.
The four others trapped by forest officials earlier this winter were semi–adults.
The big cats were reported to be on the prowl at various places, especially around the reserve forests of Gotagar, Kalapahar, Hengerabari, Jalukbari, Kamakhya and GMCH.
A forest department official said that noting the increasing sightings, a plan has been drawn out to create awareness and improve the habitats in the city and its adjoining areas.
“The ecological tolerance of leopards is very high. They can survive anywhere,” said an official.
The forest department has also sent a proposal to the tiol Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) seeking its help to conduct an estimation of the animal in the State, especially in the vicinity of Guwahati.
Wildlife experts estimate about 10,000 leopards live throughout India, but the population may be even smaller with the threat of poaching, reports indicate. According to a 2012 study on the illegal trade of leopard parts in the country, four leopards are killed every week.