After trailing it for around two months, forest officers of union territory Diu finally managed to rescue a leopard from Malala village on the island on Saturday and sent it back to mainland Gujarat.
The rescue teams of Diu forest department and Sasan wildlife division in Gir forest of mainland Gujarat caught the leopard by placing a trap cage in a coconut orchard in Malala village near the Diu city. The big cat took the bait and fell into the trap on Saturday morning, forest officials said.
“Indirect evidence like pug-marks suggested that the leopard used to come to Diu city at night and go back to villages during the day. Based on this, we identified its corridor and a rescue team from Sasan placed a cage in the coconut orchard in Malala. The previous night, its pugmarks were observed near the cage but it didn’t take the bait. However, the rescuers became successful on Saturday,” range forest officer (RFO) of Diu, Kailash Gakewad said on Sunday.
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The RFO said that the leopard was a five-year-old female and was caught some 500 metre away form the official residence of Diu collector. It was sent to Sasan for rehabilitation, as forest officers believe it had reached Diu by crossing a creek separating the island off Una coast of Gujarat.
“For the last two months, efforts were on to rescue the leopard. But given the topography, it was challenging. We had to rescue the leopard and send it back to Gujarat as the island doesn’t have the capacity to host such large carnivores,” Gaekwad further said.
Thanks to its beaches, Diu has a booming tourism industry and forest officers said that presence of predators like leopard can result in untoward incidents. The island has a few hyenas, which are the top predators in the local ecosystem.
Villagers had been alerting forest officials about the presence of the leopard for the last two months and had killed a blue bull then. But it had remained out of the reach of rescuers. No untoward incident was reported during this period with forest officers believing that the carnivore preyed on pigs all this while as cattle lifting was not reported.
A leopard was also spotted in November when President Pranab Mukherjee was in the Union Territory to inaugurate the annual beach festival. But that big cat, however, had returned to mainland Gujarat on its own, say forest officers.