With goats used as bait so far failing to lure a leopard that has killed three persons and injured five in Dhanpur taluka of Dahod district since mid-November, the Forest Department put three forest officials inside one of the nine cages it placed in the forest on Friday night to catch it. Admitting this was something new, Chief Conservator of Forests, Vadodara Circle, S K Shrivastava, who is supervising the mission, said, “Once in a while such experimentation is needed.”
The three forest officials spent four hours on Friday night in the cage, in the range where the leopard is said to be moving, with the eight other cages spread through the jungle containing animals. The three men, forest guard Vijay Bamania, an official trained to shoot tranquiliser darts, and a veterinary doctor, returned to the cage Saturday evening.
Shrivastava assured that the cage was “well locked”, adding it was meant to “actually trap monkeys”. “Initially we placed goats inside as bait, but it did not work. Now the men sit inside the cage, which is well-locked, and are supposed to alert others if they sight the leopard.”
Bamania said he saw it as “part of my duty to protect human lives”. “Our prime objective is to catch the leopard and stop loss of human lives. We were not scared at all. We spent four hours in the cage on Friday, from 6 pm to 10. We had a torch, while a goat was tied in the open nearby. We also had a machine to make goat sounds to attract the leopard. Around our position we scattered dried leaves so we could hear the leopard coming.”
As many as 200 Forest Department officials are prowling the forest range of Dhanpur in a bid to capture the leopard, including a team from Sasan Gir. Shrivastava admitted that the humans-in-cage idea followed their thwarted efforts to track the leopard lately. “One team of enthusiasts said they could sit in the forest and see if they could get something. But it’s possible the big cat could be hiding on a tree-top. So we thought let us try this (put them in a cage). They went there under supervision and a team was positioned within their reach.” The cage, he added, was like “a protection cage”.
At the same time, forest officials suspect the big cat could have moved out to Alirajpur forests in Madhya Pradesh. “In the past few days there has been no leopard attack, killing or sighting. The last pug mark we noted showed it could have moved towards Madhya Pradesh.”
Three deaths have been attributed to the leopard, including of Ashwinta Pasaya, 9, Jyotsana Parmar, 12, and 40-year-old Mathuri Ganava.
Following the deaths and attacks, the local villagers had demanded shoot-at-sight orders against the leopard.
Shrivastava said they would continue the hunt, “until and unless the leopard is caught either on our side or MP’s”. “We will not abort the mission.”