The authorities on Tuesday claimed to have caught the leopard which killed four persons and several animals in last 14 days. “The animals suspected to be behind the human killings was caught in a trap cage today morning near Sant ka Khola in Jaitpur village,” said R S Shekhawat, the Field Director of Sariska Tiger Project. Over 150 personnel led by Forest Department officials, and monitored by the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police had been deployed to track down the animal. They were assisted by personnel from the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary, the Quick Response Team, Special Tiger Protection Force and well as regular police and sharpshooters. Dog squads, a drone and about five trap cages and 20 trap cameras had also been deployed.
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Shekhawat said they had earlier caught three leopards, but none of these were not behind the attacks as the attacks on cattle have not abated. Moreover, these leopards didn’t entirely match the profile of the manhunter, the forest officials said.
Although no pugmarks could be traced from the first three deaths, the fourth attack on Ram Kunvar Meena, 55, on January 12 in mustard fields revealed very clear pug marks which were collected through a plaster cast. “These pugmarks match the ones from the leopard caught today morning,” said Deputy Conservator of Forest, Balaji Kari, Deputy Regional Director of Sariska Tiger Project.
“Also, this male leopard has one lower canine teeth missing and the teeth are also worn out. Leopards are known to turn aggressive if they have broken canines, or are old and weak. This leopard is over 10 years old,” Shekhawat said. “An injured or weak leopard tries to attack an easy prey,” added Kari.
Though the identification process is still incomplete, the officials claim they were certain this is the killer leopard. Thier next step would be to match samples collected from the spot with samples from the captured leopard. “We will continue to keep a vigil in the affected villages,” Shekhawat said.
Jaipur Zoo veterinarian Dr Arvind Mathur, however, said this is not the leopard caught last year. After two killings in Alwar late last year, forest officials had caught two leopards and shifted them to Jaipur zoo, before rehabilitating in Sariska this January and February. The attacks restarted soon after relocation of these leopards, prompting locals to say that same leopards were behind the killings. However, the officials claimed those leopards were relocated about 40 kilometres from the site of the present attacks.
The leopard caught Tuesday morning was brought to Jaipur by afternoon and examined by Dr Mathur. “We had inserted microchips in those leopards and castrated them. The present leopard doesn’t have a microchip and is neither castrated,” he said. “We are collecting blood, hair and saliva samples which we will send to CCMB Hyderabad to be matched with the samples collected from the victims,” Dr Mathur said.