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:
- Bhubaneswar, Orissa, on January 13, 2011. A leopard strayed into the village and was surrounded and clubbed to deathby some 400 local residents goaded on by as many as 4 journalists. "The brutal manner in which the villagers, armed with wooden sticks, iron rods, cricket bats and stumps, attacked the helpless leopard could be well assessed from the postmortem that suggested that the animal was killed due to severe head injury and complete destruction of its liver, reads the Deccan Herald. The mob then carried its carcass in a victory lap. "The animal was hiding behind the tree plantation and reportedly looked for a way to get out," said an official. The Chief Wildlife Warden describes,“It was a very unfortunate incident. Had the people waited for 10 minutes, we could have saved its life. People appeared to have killed the leopard for fun. Before the villagers killed the animal, Forest Department staff members had surveyed the area and found the leopard hiding comfortably behind a bush. We could have easily captured it.”
- Uttarakhand, reported on March 24, 2011. A leopard that is said to have injured 2 youths was captured, beaten, and caged. "With the mob zeroing in and daylight fading, the scared animal stepped down from the tree and tried to escape into the nearby forests but was surrounded by the mob and lynched...without provocation, while officials kept mum," writes the Times of India. Later, while still captive, the animal was doused with kerosene and burned alive with villagers and several forest rangers present.