Leopard trapped in Sikkim, released into the wild
Representational image Credit: Representational image

Guwahati: Shrinking natural habitats and scarcity of prey are forcing leopards to stray into Guwahati from nearby forests, experts said on Thursday.

A leopard was captured on Tuesday in the city’s Pandu locality – one of the areas the felines mostly wander out to, officials said.

Before the animal could be tranquilised, it attacked a woman and critically injured her, they said. The woman was rushed to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where she is undergoing treatment.

At least 16 people were killed in man-animal conflicts in 2021-22 in Kamrup East and Kamrup West forest divisions, under which Guwahati falls, officials said.

Another six people were injured in the same period, they said.

“It was an old male leopard that had taken refuge on a tree after people of the area created a ruckus on spotting it. We were able to tranquilise it in the first attempt. It was brought back to the zoo and will be released into the wild after necessary treatment,” said an wildlife expert who was involved in the rescue.

Abhijit Talukdar, a resident of the area, said the leopard was frequenting the locality for quite some nights and had killed a few domestic animals, including goats.

“Not just this one; many other leopards wander out to localities in search of food. They target domestic animals and stray dogs. Three goats were killed by a leopard in broad daylight on April 4,” he said.

Another resident of the area said the construction of a new road to Kamakhya Temple, situated atop Nilachal Hill, from Pandunath has also affected the leopard habitat.

“There is a substantial leopard population on Nilachal Hill and adjoining forests. With rapid encroachment and scarcity of food, these animals stray into human habitations,” he said.

Not just humans, the animals are also injured or even get killed when they venture close to residential areas, a veterinary expert said.

A leopard was killed on Kamakhya Temple road around four months ago after being hit by a speeding vehicle, he said.

More than 10-12 leopards have been tranquilised and captured from different parts of Guwahati in the last couple of years, he said.

While most are released into the wild, the severely injured, old and juvenile are rehabilitated in the state zoo, he said.

“Prey scarcity and diminishing living space are forcing these animals into human habitations. Solution for the problem has to be worked out in consultation with all stakeholders, including the Forest Department and locals,” the expert said.

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