Chief Conservator of Forest, Government of Madhya Pradesh, India
It was business as usual on 22 May also.One had finished office work, reached home and was about to start dinner when R S Kori, DFO South Seoni Division called up to inform me that a leopard had entered a house in Chichaldoh Maal village about 60 kms from Seoni, . It was about 10.00 pm when I got this message. In the meantime Mr Kori had instructed his SDO, ROs and other subordinate staff to reach the spot. We immediately started from Seoni and reached the village by 11.45 pm.
As we reached the village, we found that a large number of people had already gathered and surrounded the hut where the leopard was trapped.
The leopard, following the goats for a kill, had entered the hut that belonged to an old lady. She is a widow and lives alone. She keeps her goats also in the same hut. When the leopard entered the hut she was not present. On returning as she entered the hut, she found that a goat had been killed. At the same moment she saw s leopard killing another goat. Immediately, she rushed out and showing lot of presence of mind, took the help of the villagers managed to shut the doors and windows, trapping the leopard inside.
Firstly we decided to let the leopard make free so that it may escape to the adjoining forest area taking advantage of darkness. But the villagers didn’t agree to this, as they said that this animal is continuously moving around the village for last one month.They were not able to sleep in the open despite the hot weather as they were afraid of the leopard. It had killed one more goat in the same hut where it was trapped just a week ago. Considering that if the leopard is let free, it may again become a problem for the villagers and if there is any loss or damage to human life, it may turn into a law and order problem.
I discussed this issue with DFO, SDO, staff and villagers and decided to capture the leopard the next day. As capture wiould have required tranquilisation also, I discussed this with Dr Akhilesh Mishra. As he was reaching Seoni in the afternoon, we planned the capture the next afternoon.
During this period the difficult task was to manage and control the crowd. SDOs, ROs and other field staff of Seoni and Balaghat Circle did a commendable job of controlling the crowd. A rescue team of Pench Tiger Reserve also reached he spot with their rescue vehicle by 3.00 pm and within an hour we could capture the leopard passively in the cage without causing any injury to the animal. We wanted to avoid tranquilisation and we could do that. The rescue team did the capture operation fearlessly and with extreme perfection.
Immediately we left the village, and did hold the animal captive even for an hour. The leopard was examined by Dr Akhilesh Mishra and was found to be perfectly healthy. After that the carnivore was set free in the Buffer area of Pench Tiger Reserve near Rukhad about 25 kms from the place where it had been captured. Dr Akhilesh Mishra guided the entire release operation and the leopard found a new home.
It was an operation perfectly executed with the help and support of all the rank of foresters of Seoni Circle, Balaghat Circle and Pench Tiger Reserve.
Under the circumstances and due assessment of risk factors, ruling out the safe passage option sems to have worked out well. The animal was neither physically nor chemically immobilised, rather was allowed to enter into transportation cage. Probably one of the low risk and stress free operations. I am sure, experience of Balaghat Circle in managing the crowd must have come handy. Job well done.