A free ranging leopard entered Rajkot Zoological Park by jumping over perimeter wall of the park and preyed on a hog-deer late on Sunday evening. Due to the fear of the leopard having hiding in the park, the authorities kept the park closed to public on Monday and placed cages to trap the carnivore.
“Our staff noticed some movement of animals between 8 pm and 9 pm on Sunday. Later, we discovered that a leopard had preyed on a hog dear. Immediately, we launched an operation to rescue the leopard. We have placed six trap cages in the areas of the park where we believe the big cat can appear again. Normally, leopards return to the place where they make a kill. However, there has been no success so far,” Rakesh Hirapara, director of the RZP told The Indian Express.
The hog-deer enclosure is flanked by enclosure of blackbuck on the left and spotted dear on the right. Enclosures of other ungulates like Indian Gazzele, four-horned antelope and sambar are also located on the same eastern part of the zoo. But zoo authorities said that the rest of the captive animals were reported safe.
The development comes around two months after a wild leopard was spotted in a village of Wankaner taluka of neighbouring Moribi district. Surendranagar and Morbi district have resident leopards. But two male Asiatic lions have been camping in Chotila range of Surendranagar wildlife division since late November after embarking on, what forest officers are terming, on a journey to explore new territory and establish a new habitat. Forest officers say that arrival of the lions have pushed a couple of leopards out of the latter’s territory. Rampara Wildlife sanctuary in Morbi district is the closest known wild area where leopard movements are recorded.
RZP is popularly called Pradyuman Park. It is protected by a around six-feet perimeter wall topped by concertina wire. But zoo authorities said that leopard cleared the wall to enter the park. “We believe the leopard jumped over the wall and entered the park. Being an animal of the cat family, no wall is too high for a free-ranging leopard,” Hirapara, who is a trained veterinarian and who has served in the wild animal rescue teams in Gir forest for around 17 years said.
Movement of the two Asiatic lions too was reported around 20 km east of Rajkot city last month. However, the city has not recorded movements of big carnivores in past many decades as historical range of leopards and Asiatic lions shrunk drastically.