Updated: March 10, 2021 11:38:34 pm
After a three-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a leopard in Hemal village of Jafrabad taluka in Amreli district, local residents allegedly assaulted a forester and a forest guard late on Tuesday night and threatened to keep them confined till the area was cleared of leopards. This is the sixth human death in leopard attack in greater Gir area in less than three months.
Forest officers said Kinjal Sankhat, a three-year-old girl was attacked by a leopard while she was playing with another child at her maternal uncle Hasmukh Jethva’s home in Hemal village at around 8:45 pm on Tuesday. “Jethva’s home is located on the bank of a pond and is surrounded by a thicket of gando baval (prosopis juliflora). While the girl child was playing with another child in the front yard of the residence, a leopard emerged from the thicket and attacked her. The child’s mother, who was doing dishes in the front yard, noticed the wild animal and raised an alarm. Other members of the family followed the carnivore to the nearby thicket but could not save the girl,” Govind Vaghela, range forest officer (RFO) of Jafrabad range in Shetrunji wildlife division said on Wednesday.
Vaghela said Kinjal’s father Arjan is a native of neighbouring Dudhala village, around three km from Hemal, and that the Sankhats were in Hemal to visit Kinjal’s mother’s brother. Jethva, the RFO said, works as a share-cropper in Hemal village. “The girl died on the spot,” said Vaghela. She was taken to a hospital in Jafrabad town where doctors declared her dead on arrival.
As the news of the leopard attack spread, residents of Hemal and nearby villages gathered at Jethva’s home. Udaysinh Rathod, forester of Timbi round in Jafrabad range, reached Hemal with forest guard G D Chauhan. While they were trying to ascertain facts related to the incident, a group of people who had gathered there allegedly assaulted the forester and the guard. “The mob held them by collar of their shirt, slapped them and made them sit on the ground,” the RFO said.
However, the duo were rescued by the RFO and a team from Nageshri police station in Jafrabad.
“They started verbally abusing me and the forest department in general. As I asked them not to use foul language, Manubhai Vanja grabbed me by collar of my shirt and slapped me two-three times… They slapped me as well as my staff and forced us to remain seated on the ground for nearly 45 minutes, asking us to call us our superior officers else they would kill the leopard as soon as they spot it. They also told us that they would not let us go till all the wild animals, including leopards were not cleared from the area, Rathod stated in his complaint filed with Nageshri police station.
In his complaint, the forester named Manubhai Vanja, Lalbhai Bambhaniya, Madhubhai Baraiya and Ghanshyambhai Kalubhai as accused. While Vanja is a resident of Timbi village, the rest are residents of Hemal, police said.
“The accused are not directly related to the victim but used the gathering to attack forest staff to advance their ulterior motives,” the RFO claimed.
Based on Rathod’s complaint, Hemal police have booked the four men under IPC Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach the peace), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant with intent to prevent him from discharging his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of his public duty) and 114 (abettor present when offence is committed).
“Investigation is going on in the case. So far, nobody has been detained or arrested,” Darshak Majithiya, police sub-inspector in-charge of Nageshri told The Indian Express.
Shetrunji wildlife circle is part of the Junagadh wildlife circle which covers most of Gir forest and other protected areas, the last natural home in the world of Asiatic lions. However, greater Gir area, spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts also hosts one of the densest leoapard populations in Gujarat and at least around a dozen incidents of man-animal conflict have been reported over the past three months.
Kinjal is the sixth victim killed in leopard attacks in the Gir landscape in less than three months. On December 24 last year, Arti Makwana, a 17-year-old agricultural labourer, was attacked and killed by a leopard in a cotton plantation at Kasan village in Mahuva taluka of Bhavnagar district in Shetrunji wildlife division. On January 1, Arjan Bheda, a 27-year-old farmer, was killed after being attacked by a leopard at Vithalpur village in Kodinar taluka of Gir Somnath district in Jamwala range of Gir (west) wildlife division. On January 7, Hasmukh Makwana (4), son of an agricultural labourer couple, was mauled to death by a leopard in Nava Ugla village near Una town in Gir Somnath district in Gir (east) wildlife division. On January 27, Manubhai Savaliya (75), was killed in a leopard attack in Amrapur village of Amreli district’s Dhari taluka in Gir (east) wildlife division. On February 21, Namrata Vasave (3), daughter of agricultural labourers from Maharashtra was killed after being attacked by a leopard near a sugarcane plantation in Girdevli village adjoining Vithalpur in Kodinar taluka in Gir (west) wildlife division.
In December 2019, the forest department had issued orders to shoot-at-sight a leopard suspected to have killed two farmers in Bagasara taluka of Amreli district.
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