Srinagar: Five days after it arrived and began roaming around in Bagh-e-Mehtab locality of Srinagar, the elusive leopard was finally captured by the wildlife department on Saturday.
The leopard was first seen in Bagh-e-Mehtab area on Tuesday. A sense of fear had since gripped the local residents and officials of the wildlife department had been tasked with both ensuring the safety of the wild animal and preventing conflict with the humans.
Videos of the leopard jumping fences and roaming in broad daylight had went viral on social media, leaving people frightened at the sight of the leopard inside a residential colony jampacked with houses.
As soon as news of the leopard’s sighting spread, the wildlife department swung into action and tried to capture the wild animal. All efforts went in vain as the leopard managed to escape every time due to the disturbance and uproar created by people.
“We could’ve captured the leopard on the same day of launching the rescue operation in Bagh-e-Mehtab area, on Tuesday, but unfortunately the people chasing him and making noise played spoilsport. The animal, at that time, had even received three dart shots which could’ve sedated him within minutes if calm had been maintained,” said Altaf Hussain, Wildlife Warden Srinagar.
He added that till late Tuesday evening, the department continued with its search but had to give up when darkness fell.
The department had also issued an advisory on Tuesday for people living in Bagh-e-Mehtab locality and adjacent areas to remain vigilant and avoid venturing out from their homes till the next morning.
As the department resumed its operation the next morning, the team on the job couldn’t trace the leopard anywhere near the area where it was sighted a day earlier. “We searched everywhere but couldn’t find the leopard for about two days. It appeared that the animal had possibly gone back to its own habitat during the night. We then suspended our operation for a while, and asked the residents of the area to remain vigilant for any unusual activity,” Hussain told Kashmir Reader.
On Saturday morning, the leopard was again spotted by the residents of Bagh-e-Mehtab. The wildlife department was informed again. This time, the department sent out a huge team of 25 members, along with the local police, for capturing the leopard, Hussain said.
“We started the operation at about 9 AM in the morning and ended up capturing the leopard at around 1 PM in the afternoon. We had been on this task for the past five days and it was quite challenging for us to nab the leopard without letting it hurt others or being hurt itself,” Hussain said.
He added that at the time of capturing the leopard, it was found to be taking refuge inside the premises of an abandoned house in the locality. “The leopard was found in the lawns of an abandoned house. After receiving a few darts, the animal was tranquilised and subsequently captured with the help of a net. The family living adjacent to this house had informed about the presence of the leopard there,” Hussain said.
“Our Assistant Veterinary Doctor, Dr Umar, has been instrumental during this entire operation. He planned the task well and prevented any harm to both people as well as the animal,” he added.
To capture the leopard, the wildlife department conducted extensive searches of the entire area for two days but couldn’t find any trace of the animal. “The animal may have again entered the residential area in search of food. Leopards prey on dogs and it becomes easy for them to find them in areas where humans live,” Hussain said.
Areas of Budgam district along with Rangreth have a large population of leopards, Hussain said, so there is always the possibility that they can enter residential areas, especially in the winter when they find it hard to feed themselves and their families. “It shouldn’t be seen as an issue. The areas of Budgam and Rangreth are rich in leopard population. In the winter, the animals can roam into residential localities in search of food,” he said.
Hussian informed that the captured leopard was taken to Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary for medical check-up and treatment, and will be eventually released back into its habitat.