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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ildlife authorities have ensured the killing of three common leopards — Panthera pardus — in the Valley’s Kupwara forest cover in the last three months — two of them last week.
The Department of Wildlife Protection had pressed into service its sharp-shooters, equipped with .12 bore conventional guns, along with a contingent of Forest Protection Force personnel. Three private hunters, carrying double-barrel guns, had also been specially engaged to eliminate the ‘man-eaters’ who had attacked and killed three young children in recent months.
On August 10, Basit Ahmad Mir (10) became the first victim of the man-animal conflict when he was mauled by a leopard at Karihama.
Omar Manzoor Dar (12) was devoured by an animal in the same area on September 20. On October 27, Faheem Lone (10) became a predator’s prey in a forest compartment in Magam. As locals raised a furore over these incidents, authorities bypassed the J&K Wildlife Protection Act of 1978 — Section 10 authorises only the Chief Wildlife Warden to declare a protected predator as man-eater and issue permission of elimination — and drafted even the police and security forces to shoot the animal on sight.
The first leopard was gunned down at Pazalpora on September 5. Another was neutralised at Sadal on November 5 and yet another at Bomidagar on November 8.
‘No legal order issued’
One former wildlife department official, however, insisted that CWW A.K. Singh, had not issued any legal order to eliminate a man-eater in Kupwara. “Often, public pressure and panic lead to a situation of anarchy. Fearing action from the government and attacks from the public, Wildlife officials rarely observe the law,” he said on condition of anonymity.