A Day After: Massive Hunt Launched For Stray Leopards in Central Kashmir

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Srinagar: A day after a minor girl’s mutilated body was recovered near a sanctuary in Ompora sparking massive outrage, the wildlife department and police on Saturday launched a major combing operation in a vast forest area in central Kashmir’s Budgam district to eliminate man eater leopards.

The wildlife department on Saturday roped in sharpshooters to eliminate man-eater leopards in Ompora forest area of Budgam district where the mutilated body of five-year-old Ada Yasir was recovered on Friday causing massive anger and widespread outrage against the department, reports said.

A vast area spread over 500 kanal of land is being searched by a joint team of wildlife department and police with the help of forest department staff. A team of eight highly skilled sharpshooters have also been engaged to either capture or eliminate the man-eaters leopards.

Reports also said that sniffer dogs were sent on its recent-trail to identify the possible routes used by the man-eaters, but somehow nothing much was established.

An official told Kashmir Observer that the forest department has already set-up a few camera traps, heavy machinery and sharpshooters in order to try and spot the leopards, but the beasts have somehow managed to elude all these traps placed by the Wildlife Department.

“The team stumbled upon a leap of footprints of around 4 leopards—all considered to be adults. Of these, the 3 are considered to be active leopards,” the official said.

“This has once again left the chasing party to be confused on which of the 4 is a man-eater but this trend has helped to sabotage the growing blur—Three of the leopards appear to hunt in packs maybe because of the dwindling habitat,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Budgam, Shahbaz Ali Mirza told Kashmir Observer that he has directed the SSP Budgam to provide manpower to the Wildlife Department in carrying out the search operation.

“We have given the chasing party a full hand for elimination of the wild beasts if they fail to capture them alive,” he said.

Ifshana Diwan, the Wildlife Warden of the area said that leopards have grown in number in the area and for them livestock and human beings, have become two easy targets.

“We are using all available clues to eliminate the beasts as soon as possible; the CCTV footage in the area is also being used as evidence of the present movement of animals,” she said, adding “Besides this massive search in Ompora, we have launched small intensity operations in Khansahib, Sebdan and Patwav”

DFO PP Budgam, Arshad Katoo said that the reason the forest team saw so many paw prints could be because there’s an abundance of stray cows and rabbits roaming in the area.

“Usually, this is what lures the leopards into becoming man-eaters,” Katoo added.

5 more leopards spotted

Five more leopards were spotted in Budgam on Saturday. As per eyewitnesses, three leopards were spotted at Makhama area of Magam and two were spotted at Chrawni Nowhar area of Charar-i-Sharief.

Locals from Makhama said about three leopards were roaming in the area, whereas locals of Chrawni said that two leopards were seen in the area.

Leopard Caught In Khansahib

Earlier the wildlife department and police in a joint operation on Saturday caught a leopard in Khansahib area of Budgam district, officials said.

Acting on information from the villagers that a leopard was roaming in Khudpora, Khansahib, a team of police and wildlife department officials swung into action and captured the beast alive, a police spokesperson said. The beast, he said, was roaming in the residential areas of Khansahib and other adjoining areas posing a threat to the locals especially children.

“The wild animal was captured alive without causing any injury. The locals of the area heaved a sigh of relief after the wild animal was captured,” he added.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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