[dropcap]A[/dropcap] leopard in its prime was beaten to death by villagers after it strayed out of a tea estate and mauled seven persons in a Dooars village on Saturday morning.
The male leopard that inhabited the Ethelbari tea estate, entered Changmaritari village near Khagenhat in Birpara, on Saturday. Before anybody could spot it, the animal attacked and injured four villagers. The news of the attack spread like wildfire. Even as forest department officials were alerted, thousands of villagers armed with sticks and other weapons began to gather at the spot where the big cat had taken cover.
Seeing the mob, the leopard sensed danger and clambered atop a tree. By that time, a team of foresters from Dalgaon range had reached the spot with tranquillizer darts and attempted to put the animal so that it could be rescued. But with the animal camouflaged by branches and leaves, the darts were wayward and missed the leopard.
Feeling threatened, the leopard lashed out, leaping down from the tree and attacking the people at random. Three persons were mauled before the mob, baying for blood, came down on the leopard with whatever they were armed with, beating it to death in front of foresters and policemen.
“Our men were outnumbered. The team could not do anything when the 2,000-strong mob attacked the animal,” admitted Bidyut Sarkar, divisional forest officer, Jalpaiguri division.
The seven injured persons are being treated at Birpara state general hospital.