The leopard that prowled a Lucknow village for the last two days was shot dead on Saturday morning. The police officer who shot the animal claimed he did it in self-defence. The forest department has lodged an FIR against unidentified persons under the Wildlife Protection Act. The end for the leopard, an adult male, came at around 9 am in Aurangabad Khalsa village, about 12 kms from Lucknow. Forest officials had thought they had it trapped inside a plot by erecting plastic fencing. They were waiting for it to enter one of three cages containing bait that they had set up. The plot had many concrete sewage pipes, around seven feet in diameter, and plants that made it difficult to detect the animal.
Sahail Khan, into whose house the leopard entered shortly before it was killed, narrated the sequence of events to The Sunday Express: “At around 5 am the leopard tore open the fencing and escaped. Some of us alerted the forest officials.”
Forest officials had earlier warned people to stay indoors but many curious residents tried to catch a glimpse of it and tried to scare the leopard away. However, they only managed to agitate the animal further. Since entering the village, it had already injured three persons. Khan said when the forest officials failed to turn up, they called in the police. Aashiana police station house officer (SHO) Triloki Singh said police fired shots when they sensed it would harm people around it. He didn’t know if these shots injured the animal, but it managed to enter Sahail Khan’s house.
“I heard a woman shouting for help. When I reached the gate the leopard suddenly attacked me. I had to fire at it in self-defence. I pushed the animal inside and locked it in the kitchen,” the SHO, who suffered bite marks on his arm and face. Khan later said the scream may have been from a member of his family who were all on the first floor at the time. K Praveen Rao, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) Awadh circle, said the leopard had died by the time his team entered the house.
“Three bullet injuries were found on the carcass that was later sent for the autopsy. We have lodged an FIR in Awadh forest division against unidentified persons under Wildlife Protection Act sections for hunting. Names would be added during the investigation,” Rao said.
“The forest staff was keeping a 24-hour vigil. At around 5.30 am, our staff alerted others about the leopard’s escape and they began searching for the animal. When we heard that the leopard had been spotted, we moved to rescue it. But then some villagers started abusing us and protesting, delaying us. By the time we reached the spot the it had already been shot dead,” Rao said.
“We neither have the authority nor the resources to control the law and order situation. That is the job of the police. During the last two days, police supported us in the operation, but today we did not get the desired support.”