A 12-year-old male leopard was run over by a vehicle on Guwahati’s Assam Trunk road near Kamakhya temple on Sunday night. While the authorities have not been able to trace the vehicle or the driver, the leopard died on the spot.
“The post-mortem reports have revealed that the animal suffered a profuse brain haemorrhage caused by an injury to the head,” said Hemkanta Talukdar, Chief Conservator of Forest, Central Assam Circle, adding that the leopard was found at 11.30 pm.
The leopard measured 1 m 20 cm in length and 70 cm in height. “We cremated him earlier today. It was a robust and healthy specimen, which means he was well-adjusted to the habitat,” said Talukdar.
The hillocks encircling Guwahati are natural habitats of leopards.
“There are no proper estimates but it is not uncommon to see leopards near Kamakhya temple hilltop, Kalapahar, Gotanagar etc,” he said, adding that rampant development in these areas have led to increased man-animal conflicts.
Guwahati shares its boundary with the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, and a number of notified Reserve Forests — Fatasil, Jaukbari, Kalaphar, Gorbhanga etc. This unique location of Northeast India’s biggest and most rapidly developing city has led to the degradation of wildlife habitat and increased man-animal conflict.
“Earlier, when people settled in their habitats, leopards would usually disperse to other areas. Now, they have nowhere to go because every hill is occupied,”said Bibhab Talukdar, CEO & Secretary General of Aaranyak, a leading wildlife NGO.
Honorary Wildlife Warden (Guwahati) Kaushik Barua said that the Sunday incident was “a very unfortunate accident” because leopards have been traditionally living in the Kamakhya area for years. “In fact, humans and leopards are very accustomed to each other here. However, in other parts of the city, where unauthorised settlements are on the rise, there is a clash,” he said.
CCF Talukdar added that while it was easier to regulate speed limits in protected areas like Kaziranga National Park, it was difficult to implement the same in cities. “This is probably the first accident death,” he said, “And it happened on a main road.”
Recently, multiple leopard deaths have been reported across Assam. In June 2019, a leopard was mutilated by locals in a remote village in Charaideo district, after it attacked a villager. There are other incidents from Jorhat and Dibrugarh districts in the past too. Aaranyak’s Talukdar estimated an average of twenty to thirty leopard deaths per year in Assam.
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