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‘Man-eater’ leopard creates panic in Budgam

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Authorities order shoot-at-sight orders

Budgam: Following another fatal attack on a minor child in the Khansahib area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, the Wildlife Department issued shoot-at-sight orders on Friday to eliminate the “man-eater” leopard.

The Khansahib area has been gripped with fear and anguish after a series of leopard attacks claimed the lives of two minor girls and left a minor boy injured within a span of 17 days.

Toiba Mushtaq, 7, daughter of Mushtaq Ahmad, was taken from the lawns of her home during the evening hours, and her body was later discovered in nearby bushes. Notably, a 9-year-old girl was fatally attacked, while a minor boy sustained injuries in a separate incident involving a leopard in the neighbouring village of Samsan within the past 17 days.

The rise in human-animal conflicts has left villagers living in constant fear, who had appealed for a shoot-at-sight order from the district administration.

Altaf Hussain, Wildlife Warden (Central) said that they have issued the shoot-at-sight order for the “man-eater” leopard.

“Our first priority will be tranquilising or trapping the animal, but if these measures fail, shooting will be considered. After assessing the situation, orders have been issued to hunt down the said animal following the necessary formalities,” he said.

Over the past 17 days, the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department has conducted extensive search operations, utilising drones in various areas where the presence of the leopard is suspected.

Officials have advised residents to stay indoors, especially during morning and evening hours, to avoid further attacks until the leopard is captured.

Earlier, Deputy Commissioner Budgam Akshay Labroo asked people in the area to stay indoors, particularly in the morning and evening, and to take extra care of their children by not letting them go outside.

Speaking to media persons following his visit to Hariwani where a 7-year-old girl was mauled to death by a leopard, the DC advised people to exercise extra caution until the operation is over, especially with regard to their children, and to walk in groups to prevent any more unfortunate incidents.

“I urge people to cooperate with the police, wildlife, and revenue departments to make this operation effective. Only then will people be able to heave a sigh of relief when the leopard that has turned into a monster is swiftly apprehended,” he said.

“In order for the wildlife team and police to follow up on leads, sightings can also be reported to our SDPO, SHO and police department, who are already at work,” the DC said.

Earlier, speaking to the media persons, SDM Khansahib said the administration is keeping a close eye on the leopard. “Cages had already been set up in Samsan village, but unfortunately, the leopard moved and attacked another child four kilometres away in Hariwani,” he said.

He said that under the Deputy Commissioner’s direction, a wildlife team has been permanently deployed in the village, and community awareness campaigns have been conducted, advising residents to stay inside during the morning and evening hours and to take extra care of their children until the leopard is apprehended.

Describing the horrific incident, Ajaz Ahmad, a local of Hariwani, said that 7-year-old Toiba Mushtaq was taken away from the lawns of her home in the evening, despite her mother being with her when they stepped outside to use the toilet. Her body was later found in nearby bushes.

“Out of the three brothers, only one brother had a child, and she was that, but the leopard also made her its victim. The Wildlife Department hasn’t succeeded in catching it, and the district administration has remained a silent spectator,” he lamented. “No orders are being given by them to kill this leopard even after two killings. We are living in constant fear, and our children are not able to go out of the house, affecting their education.”

Javed Ahmad, another local of Hariwani village, said the recent leopard attacks have left them trembling with fear. “We cannot even step out of our homes without worrying about the safety of our children. Yesterday, after killing a minor girl, the leopard attacked another person in the same village, but he luckily managed to escape,” he said.

“This man-eating leopard attacks by entering the yards of houses, and fearing that, a person cannot even step outside the houses. The Wildlife Department has very few staff, due to which they are not able to catch the leopard,” he added. (KNO)


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