A retired school teacher was found dead at his mango orchard near Talala town on the border of Gir forest in Gir Somnath district on Monday night. The man was attacked and killed by a wild animal, suspected to be a leopard, officials said.
Lakshmidas Sureja (64), a resident of Talala town, was found dead at his mango orchard on Virpur-Dhava road, around five kilometres southeast of Talala, around 9 pm on Monday. Police said that Sureja, a retired government school teacher, had left for his orchard around 5 pm to oversee labourers doing weeding and fertilising work at his orchard. However, he didn’t return home till 9 pm and eventually, his friends Narendra Changela and Dinesh Kansagra decided to look for him. They found Sureja dead at the orchard, police said.
“The two friends noticed injury marks all over Sureja’s body and primarily concluded that he was murdered. However, we called the medical officer of the community health centre (CHC) of Talala and he, after noticing injury marks on Sureja’s throat region, opined that the retired teacher was killed by a wild animal. Therefore, we called local forest officers and they, too, agreed with the medical officer’s observation. A post-mortem by a panel of doctors on Tuesday morning concluded that the teacher had died due to injury marks caused by the canine teeth of a wild animal,” Shardul Bhua, police sub-inspector (PSI) of Talala told The Indian Express.
The PSI said that the wild animal attacked the sexagenerian after the labourers had left the orchard, which is near Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. The area falls in Talala range of Gir (west) wildlife division of Junagadh Wildlife Circle. Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh Wildlife Circle, said that teacher was killed by a wild animal. “The deceased’s friends first informed police that it was a case of suspected murder. Later on, the police, doctors and the forest team concluded that the death was caused by a wild animal,” he said.
Local forest officers said they suspected a leopard had killed the retired teacher. “After the incident, we observed pug marks of a leopard on the mango orchard and canine teeth injury marks on Sureja’s body. The style of attack also suggests that it could be a leopard as leopards generally run away after attacking a human. The fact that no lion movement was recorded in the area over the past two days also reinforces our suspicion that it was a leopard on that orchard,” said Bimalkumar Bhatt, range forest officer (RFO) of Talala.
The RFO said that they had placed four traps in and around the orchard to rescue the leopard, but to no avail as of Tuesday evening.
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