Thursday, July 21, 2011

Leopard lynching

In this series of frightening photographs (more here), you see a full-grown male leopard attacking a forest official in Prakash Nagar, India, about 373mi from Kolkata. The leopard mauled 6 villagers, 1 policeman, and 4 forest guards on Tuesday as they tried to drive it into a wildlife sanctuary in West Bengal state. The officials managed to tranquilize the animal, but locals used stones, batons, and knives to try to beat it back, and it died of its wounds several hours later. American and British newspapers characterize this attack as vicious, while an Australian paper has a different slant. In an account in the Times of India (which has curiously disappeared since last night, though you can read the headline here), the crush of onlookers are blamed for the outcome of this incursion by not allowing the leopard an escape route back into the wild. The article quotes a forest guard: "We found that its 4 paws were injured as it had climbed on to a wall with glass shards. Afraid and desperate to return to the forest, it was attacking the bystanders....If we had insisted on providing a safe passage to animals, public wrath would have fallen upon us. In such circumstances, people are in no mood to listen to us." The scenario - known as leopard lynching - happens all too often, resulting in the brutal killing of these near-threatened big cats (videos here and here, caution). Here are 2 examples:

A petition is circulating to bring attention to the needless violence resulting from human-leopard interaction in India, and guidelines were written (Athreya, V.R. & Belsare, A.V. 2007. Human – Leopard Conflict Management Guidelines. Pune, India: Kaati Trust). that point out, "It is important to control curious onlookers from crowding around the leopard to prevent agitating the animal further. Besides, the Emergency Response Team requires sufficient space to operate effectively. Most importantly if the leopard makes an attempt to escape the chances of people getting hurt are reduced." This is a vicious cycle if it doesn't stop.

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