After a rigorous search operation, the state forest department on Friday gunned down a “maneater” leopard, which is believed to have killed as many as seven persons and injured four others in Beed, Aurangabad and Solapur forest divisions since November 15.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Nitin Kakodkar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), said, “The maneater leopard has been gunned down at a banana farm in Karmala in Solapur district around 6.15 pm today (Friday).”
According to forest officials, the leopard was spotted at the banana farm of Pandurang Rakhunde, at Rakhunde Vasti of Wangi village in Karmala.
A forest department team comprising shooter Dhawalsinh Mohite Patil then followed the leopard. Mohite Patil fired three bullets at the leopard from a 12 bore rifle from about 15 feet. The leopard died in the incident.
According to the forest department, the leopard had wreaked havoc in various villages in Beed and Solapur forest divisions, including places in Beed, Ahmednagar, Solapur and Aurangabad districts.
On November 16, the leopard attacked and killed two persons, identified as Ashok Avate (50) and Krushna Avate, at Apegaon in Paithan. On November 21, Chabubai Eknath Rathod (44) was killed in a leopard attack at BhagwanGad in Pathardi forest range. Next day, on November 21, forty-year-old Alka Rajendra Bade was injured in a leopard attack at Jatwad village in Shirur taluka of Beed district. On November 24, a man identified as Nagnath Gahininath Garje (36) was killed in a leopard attack at Surudi village in Ashti in Beed district.
On November 27, the leopard killed ten-year-old Swaraj Sunil Bhapkar at Kinhi village in Ashti. Sheelawati Baba Dinde (33) and Abhishek Dinde (15) were injured in a leopard attack at Mangrul in Ashti on November 28. On November 29, Surekha Nilkanth Bhosale (33) died and another woman Shalabai Shahaji Bhosale (60) was injured in a leopard attack at Pargaon village in Ashti.
On December 3, the leopard attacked and killed a man identified as Kalyan Devidas Funde at Limbewadi in Karmala in Solapur. The leopard also killed several cattle in different villages, causing a panic situation.
In view of the rising number of attacks on humans by the leopard, a committee was formed by the forest department for studying the issue. The committee visited the places where the leopard attacked people.
Even after intensified patrolling and installation of cages at important locations and use of trap cameras, drone cameras for locating and trapping the leopard, forest officials were unable to stop the leopard’s movement.
Also, forest officials found that the leopard was particularly attacking human beings and no other animals. So, believing that the leopard has become a maneater, forest officials sought permission to capture or kill the leopard from higher authorities.
Permission was granted and an order in this regard was passed by Kakodkar on December 6. The order, which was effective till January 31, 2021, stated that no awards should be announced for killing the leopard.