GUWAHATI, March 4 � In yet another incident of leopards straying into the city, a full-grown adult leopard was captured from a swamp near a residential area at Gotanagar this morning.
Forest sources said that the animal apparently had an injury on the backbone earlier, as eyewitnesses said that the animal was limping when it was seen in the swamp early in the morning.
The Zoo veterinarian, Dr Smith, said that the leopard � an adult male � seemed to have serious backbone injuries. �It is in a critical condition and is being kept at the zoo for monitoring after treatment,� he said.
After the leopard was noticed, a huge crowd soon gathered at the spot, with some people venturing close to the panicked animal which was having difficulty in moving in the mud with its injury.
The local people alleged that forest personnel took an unduly long time to arrive at the spot. DFO, Guwahati Wildlife Division, SK Sealsharma, however, said that when he was informed by a resident about the presence of an injured leopard in the swamp, he asked them not to raise a hue and cry and not to crowd the area.
�Unfortunately, a large gathering ensued soon and some people approached close to the animal. It is not clear if somebody hit the animal which could have an aggravating impact on its injury,� he said.
Straying of leopards from the surrounding hills of the city has been quite common, with the phenomenon worsening in recent years. Over the past decade several leopards have been caught and a few killed by unruly mobs. The city has 18 hills right within its municipal area, with a substantial portion of the hills being reserve forests.
Unfortunately, the hills have witnessed rampant loss of forest cover triggered by large-scale encroachment, illegal logging and earth-cutting with the authorities looking the other way. Eviction drives on the reserve forests on the hills are invariably met with stiff public resistance, with the political parties and different influential organizations lending their weight behind the encroachers.
�Encroachment on the reserve forests located in the hills has worsened in the last decade, to the extent that very little remains of what was once a vast expanse of jungle sheltering diverse wildlife, the leopard being a most common resident,� a forest official said
While no official up-to-date data is available, according to an official estimate dating back to several years, the total forest cover in the hills was a meagre 13.60 per cent. Today it is bound to be even less � given the ongoing encroachment and earth-cutting on the hills. Of the 7,023 hectares of hill land, 2,642 hectares fall under reserve forests but much of even the reserve forest lies destroyed and degraded due to encroachment and tree-felling.