Forest officials found a dead male leopard with a severe head injury in the Little Rann of Kutch at around 7 am on Tuesday morning. There has never been a leopard sighting in this part of Kutch,given the harsh survival conditions of the salt desert,which made the incident even more curious.
Officials and wildlife experts believe the wild cat may have followed a herd of livestock from the forested foothills that fringe the deserts southern periphery in Saurashtra,and crept through stretches of gando baval shrub before reaching the vast desert expanse in Patadi taluka where it was possibly run-over by a fast-moving vehicle in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Prima facie,the death seems to have been caused by the head injury,but what caused it is uncertain as of now. A leopard of the same description was spotted in an agricultural field in Dhrangadhra a month ago. We laid traps but could not catch it then. It may be the same animal, said Jaysinh Chaudhary,Superintendent of the Wild Ass Sanctuary at Dhrangadhra.
That the 55-kg leopard was found outside its natural habitat was explained by foresters and experts as perhaps being caused by its search for food. They said the death might have been due to vehicular movement,others said the cat would have easily spotted and escaped such a large vehicle and suggested it must have been smaller and faster.
It may have followed a herd of goat or sheep from the foothills further south. Or maybe a wild dog. I suspect it may have travelled two days to reach where it was found. But thats hardly surprising given a wolf from Gujarat was once found in Maharashtra. It had followed a pastoralists herd all the way till there, said Anil Mulchandani,veteran travel-writer and expert on wildlife.
Chaudhary said finding a leopard in the desert is uncommon but not unheard of. Two years back,we had a similar kind of incident in Kharaghoda. They must have come from Chotila or Wankaner forest areas in search of food, he said.