THE FOREST department has launched an extensive operation to capture leopards from the edges of Gir (west) and Gir (east) forest divisions in Junagadh and Amreli districts following a number of human deaths in that area. The department has rescued 11 leopards in less than three weeks, the latest one being captured on Saturday night, even as officers said that they have permission even to shoot the carnivores as a last recourse.
Forest officers said they rescued a female leopard from Manekvada village of Bagasara taluka in Amreli district late on Saturday night. The area falls in Kukavav range of Amreli social forestry division. The carnivorous animal, believed to be three to five years old, was captured from an agricultural field of one Kurjibhai Kyada, they said.
This is the 11th leopard to be caged by the forest department this month from three talukas - Visavadar taluka in Gir (west) forest division in Junagadh district, Dhari taluka in Gir (east) forest division in Amreli and Bagasara taluka in Amreli social forestry division.
Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, said the leopard rescue drive in the area would continue.
“Since April this year, eight human deaths have been reported in these three talukas due to leopard attacks. Therefore, this area has become a matter of concern. So, we have put more than 25 cages in this particular area and more than 50 people have been deputed for operations,” the CCF told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Vasavada further said that wildlife trackers from Sasan wildlife division, Gir (west) division and Amreli social forestry division are part of the operation to capture leopards. “We are targeting the villages where the deaths have occurred and villages surrounding these villages,” said the CCF.
The officer said that 10 of the captured leopards have been shifted to animal care centre in Sasan while the one captured from Bagasar has been put up at Sakkar Baug zoo in Junagadh.
The CCF said that they have even obtained permission to shoot leopards suspected of attacking human beings dead. “When eight persons die, it becomes a very serious concern. So our chief wildlife warden has issued orders to shoot, as a last recourse, those leopards which can’t be captured. But it is the last option and most probably we shall not require to exercise it,” Vasavada said.
The action by the forest department comes in the wake of farmers of Visavadar threatening to launch an agitation if leopards are not caught. The farmers have been aggressively demanding that leopards be caged after at least three persons were killed by the big cats in recent months.