WILDLIFE: Cat caged in brew bush – Workers suspect another leopard still at large – poaching, reason for encroachment or culling necessary ?!!

The caged leopard in the Dhumchipara garden on Thursday - Darjeeling Zoo's delight ?!! (Photo by Anirban Choudhury)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, May 6: An adult female leopard was trapped today in Dhumchipara Tea Estate almost a fortnight after two cages were set up, bringing some relief to the residents of the garden. Five workers of the estate had been mauled by a big cat in the past one month.

The workers are, however, apprehending that another leopard is still at large in the estate, 65km from here.

The management of Dhumchipara had sent an SOS to the forest department after regular incursions by wild animals, like elephants, leopards and bison, disrupted work in the garden. The foresters had set up two trap-door-squeeze cages in the plantation on April 23.

Punam Chhetri, a worker of the garden, spotted the trapped leopard around 6am and informed the management which got in touch with the forest department. The animal was released in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, 24km from the garden, after preliminary treatment.

“I always checked on the cages whenever I walked past them. Today I saw the animal inside, growling and trying to force its way out and in the process, injuring itself by dashing against the bars. We are not yet relieved as there is another leopard roaming the garden and all of us are apprehensive about being attacked any time,” Punam said.

Garden manager D.K. Arora echoed the worker. “The garden employees along with forest guards are patrolling the area daily, particularly those places where plucking of tea leaves is on. The foresters should ensure that the second leopard is either trapped or driven away so that work can go on without a hindrance,” Arora said.

Currently, plucking is allowed only after bursting of crackers and blowing the garden siren to scare away the wild animals, he said. At night, workers keep vigil in turns to keep away elephants trying to enter the garden.

The manager said besides the attack by leopards, elephants regularly raided the estate and destroyed the workers’ quarters. “At least 20 quarters have been damaged in the past one month. On April 28, a bison entered the garden and created panic.”

The range officer of Madarihat, Srikanta Ghosh, said the trapped big cat had been released in Jaldapara. “We will stop the joint patrolling from today. We will resume it only if we get proper evidence that another leopard is hiding in the area. Till now we have not seen any sign of another animal.”

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