The Forest officials in Purulia have launched a massive search operation to identify the culprits who had chopped off all the four claws and the tail of a full grown female leopard after killing it brutally last Saturday in Purulia. The officials are also awaiting a post mortem report to ascertain the number of injuries the leopard had, said Divisional Forest Officer, (DFO), Purulia, Omprakash on Monday.
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The mutilated carcass of the leopard was hung from a tree for public display with its four claws chopped off on Saturday. The tail was also cut off from its root and taken away. The forest officials had to persuade the villagers for hours before they could retrieve the carcass and send it for post mortem, said DFO, Omprakash.
The gruesome killing of the leopard and the chopping off its body parts evoked extreme criticism. Several hundred villagers lynched the animal that had strayed into a village called Tatuarah near Kotshila in Purulia district on Saturday afternoon. The forest tract here shares a common border between Jharkhand and West Bengal.
In a report sent to the West Bengal government and to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, the DFO Purulia said on Monday that a forest department team had reached the village before the leopard was killed on Saturday afternoon. They had tranquilizing guns and nets for capturing the animal. But they were not only outnumbered by a huge gathering of villagers – a section of whom kept spreading rumours to whip up a frenzy for killing the animal. As a result the forest team could not act as a deterrent, the report stated.
The PCCF (Wild Life) Azam Zaidi said “it was an accidental case of lynching of the leopard. The forest officials had no prior knowledge of the leopard entering the area. But villagers could have left the animal to the forest official to capture,” he said.
Omprakash, the DFO said on Monday that for several hours the heavily armed villagers each one holding a weapon had hounded out the leopard and the forest team that had reached the village neither had the opportunity nor the adequate man power to deal with such a situation.
“But the forest department have lodged an FIR and the police and forest officials are working to identify the culprits through the video footage and pictures that were taken during the lynching of the leopard. The officials said it was a full grown female leopard.
The DFO said that preliminary inquiry showed that the animal had either been chased out by villagers from its hide out or it was chasing some prey and entered the village. Soon after the villagers spotted the leopard, rumours began to spread that it had killed a woman of the village. Later, another rumour spread that it was accompanied by a male and the tow would create havoc if not killed.
The forest official pointed out that leopards are very solitary animals and would be in pairs only for a brief spell of three to four days during mating which is generally in November-December. They also denied reports that the leopard had entered form Jharkhand forests. Purulia forests in the Nowahatu beat and around the origin of Kangsabati river have stray leopards.
This one, on being chased by the villagers had taken shelter in the courtyard of a small hut. The inmates in the hut did not know that the leopard had been hiding in their courtyard. Once they spotted the leopard, they raised a hue and cry and managed to run out and bolt the door locking the leopard in the courtyard.
During the run and chase between the men and the leopard the animal had pounced on at least three persons and mauled them badly. Two of them were local villagers while the third was a policeman. The forest staff shifted them to local hospitals.
The state forest minister Benoy Krishna Barman has sought a report from the concerned officials regarding the cruel killing of the leopard.
[The Indian Express is in possession of more pictures the brutality, but they are too gory to be published]