Messed up rescue killed the leopard, say villagers
Unlike the successful rescue of a leopard at Ajilapuram village in the same Marriguda mandal in Nalgonda on January 14, the multi-team operation, to save a seven-year-old male leopard at Rajapet Thanda on Thursday, was a messed up affair that eventually resulted in the death of the wild animal.The officials declared that the big cat breathed his last while being taken to Nehru Zoological Park (NZP), Hyderabad, and the cause of death was “internal haemorrhages, shock and asphyxia”. However, residents of Rajapet Thanda refuse to believe the wild cat died because of internal injuries and suffocation. “It was so active, running, pouncing and it even tried to climb the vehicle of the Forest Department. Officials may be covering up the failed rescue,” they say.According to Sadan Lal, owner of the 10-acre farm where the animal was tranquilised and who alerted the authorities, the response of the Forest officials was lukewarm. “I called the police at 6.10 a.m., they were here in 20 minutes. Forest beat officers reached in another 30 minutes, but the senior officers kept seeking clarifications till 8 a.m. The rescue team from Hyderabad reached here only at 11 a.m., and they managed to capture the wild cat by 1 p.m.,” he explained the timeline.Eyewitnesses, like toddy tapper Madhagoni Abbaiah and cattle herders Sunitha and Ramesh Naik, wondered why officials had to shoot the tranquiliser gun several times, and why they did not use a net to capture the animal while it was still trapped in the fencing mesh.“Ajilapuram is two kilometres from here. That leopard, reported to be five-year-old, was in a boar trap and was shot only twice. The additional tranquiliser shots have killed this leopard,” they opined.A Forest official who was part of the Thursday rescue, told The Hindu: “There were at least five shots. Two hit the animal while it was under the fence and the third one flew over. Two or more were shot at the leopard when it went under the vehicle.”Field observations also confirmed that there was no wire trap on the site as declared by NZP Curator. However, it appears that the leopard got trapped in the chain link fence as the fence post got uprooted when the 70-kg wild animal tried to leap over it. The fence got twisted trapping the animal further.Tyre marks, numerous footwear impressions, long sticks, disposable syringe packs, a dry gunny bag, pink stripe towel and a camouflage cap, still strewn across the field, where the foresters tried to capture the wild animal, are evidence to the hectic efforts made by the rescue team. The leopard’s last meal appears to be blood sucked from the neck of a sheep, which was found dead on the same farm.