Coronavirus lockdown fails to keep people of Assam from leaving homes to kill leopards; four big cats slaughtered in April

Leopards fall under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and included in Appendix I of CITES.

Karishma Hasnat April 24, 2020 11:02:20 IST
Coronavirus lockdown fails to keep people of Assam from leaving homes to kill leopards; four big cats slaughtered in April

Guwahati: The coronavirus lockdown has taken its toll on leopards in Assam with four of them killed in Upper Assam during the monthlong lockdown period, officials said.

On Thursday, four persons were arrested on charges of killing of a leopard in Golaghat district and consuming its meat. The accused have been identified as Jonmon Gogoi, Raktim Gogoi, Thagiram Gogo and Nitya Nanda Saikia of Ahomgaon village.

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Representational image. Reuters

The state forest department and Golaghat police conducted a joint raid in the wee hours of Thursday. The team led by Bhaskar Deka, divisional forest officer, Golaghat division managed to identify the accused with the help of a video recording from the scene of the crime.

“The leopard was killed on 18 April. We have evidence in the form of video recording of those involved in the incident, and four of them have been arrested under Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Few more will be arrested soon. They have all confessed to the crime. Currently, in the custody of Golaghat Police, they will be produced before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate on Friday,” said Deka.

“One of the accused said he was instructed by another villager to chop off the body parts of the leopard after killing it,” Deka said.

The video shows a few men hacking the leopard with a sharp tool (Dao), and ripping out its teeth. Children and womenfolk were also present in the crime scene as evident in the video footage. During the investigation, the accused even admitted of two households in the village eating the leopard meat.

In Golaghat district alone, three leopards were killed and five others rescued during the lockdown period in April. The big cats were trapped and later released at the Nambor Doigrung wildlife sanctuary. While the carcasses of two leopards were recovered on 3 and 17 April respectively, almost 3-4 days after they were killed by villagers. A jungle cat was hammered to death on 9 April.

“We recovered the carcasses of the two leopards a few days after they were killed. Investigation revealed that the villagers killed the animals in self-defence,” said the Golaghat DFO.

Another leopard was shot dead by Assam Police personnel in the outskirts of Jorhat district on 6 April. The adult male leopard taking shelter in a tree after evading a tranquilising attempt was surrounded by villagers wielding sharp weapons and sticks. As darkness fell, it was cornered by a group of security personnel, and was reportedly gunned down in ‘self-defence’.

Leopards fall under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and included in Appendix I of CITES.

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