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Stray leopard disrupts life in city, 3 injured

By Staff reporter

GUWAHATI, Jan 7 � In what exemplifies unabated encroachment and rapid forest cover loss in the city's hills, a straying leopard disrupted normal life in Guwahati for over two hours before it was tranquilized and sent to the State Zoo.

Three persons were injured when the traumatized animal was provoked into attacking over-enthusiastic onlookers who gathered in their hundreds. A few insensitive and foolhardy persons were even seen poking at the terrified leopard with sticks.

A severe traffic congestion also ensued due to the onrush of people in the area, and City Police (Traffic) had to divert traffic to other routes to facilitate speedy capture of the animal.

The leopard was first seen at Navagraha-Silpukhuri area around 12-30 midday, and as the news spread rapidly, people came out in hordes to get a view of the animal. Later, a team of forest personnel along with veterinarians arrived at the spot to tranquilize the panicked leopard which was looking for a shelter to evade the crowd of animated spectators.

According to a person who claimed to be an eyewitness, some persons managed to get the leopard locked inside a room after it had entered a

local resident's house. Thereafter, it was successfully tranquilized, caged, and sent to the zoo.

Zoo DFO Utpal Bora who led the rescue team said the leopard � a full-grown adult male � was doing fine and that it would be kept in the zoo for a day or two before it was released in the jungle.

�Two experienced veterinarians supervised the tranquilization exercise which was done admirably. The animal is stable now but is still a bit traumatized and will require some more time to be fit for release,� Bora said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), S Chand said that the leopard would be released in a forest on the city outskirts or even beyond. �We have not yet decided where to release the leopard but it is likely to be released at some distance from the city. Till then it would be kept in the zoo,� 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.

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.

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Stray leopard disrupts life in city, 3 injured

GUWAHATI, Jan 7 � In what exemplifies unabated encroachment and rapid forest cover loss in the city's hills, a straying leopard disrupted normal life in Guwahati for over two hours before it was tranquilized and sent to the State Zoo.

Three persons were injured when the traumatized animal was provoked into attacking over-enthusiastic onlookers who gathered in their hundreds. A few insensitive and foolhardy persons were even seen poking at the terrified leopard with sticks.

A severe traffic congestion also ensued due to the onrush of people in the area, and City Police (Traffic) had to divert traffic to other routes to facilitate speedy capture of the animal.

The leopard was first seen at Navagraha-Silpukhuri area around 12-30 midday, and as the news spread rapidly, people came out in hordes to get a view of the animal. Later, a team of forest personnel along with veterinarians arrived at the spot to tranquilize the panicked leopard which was looking for a shelter to evade the crowd of animated spectators.

According to a person who claimed to be an eyewitness, some persons managed to get the leopard locked inside a room after it had entered a

local resident's house. Thereafter, it was successfully tranquilized, caged, and sent to the zoo.

Zoo DFO Utpal Bora who led the rescue team said the leopard � a full-grown adult male � was doing fine and that it would be kept in the zoo for a day or two before it was released in the jungle.

�Two experienced veterinarians supervised the tranquilization exercise which was done admirably. The animal is stable now but is still a bit traumatized and will require some more time to be fit for release,� Bora said.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), S Chand said that the leopard would be released in a forest on the city outskirts or even beyond. �We have not yet decided where to release the leopard but it is likely to be released at some distance from the city. Till then it would be kept in the zoo,� 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.

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.