August 5, 2011: Several rural villages in India have suffered leopard attacks in recent months, most recently on Saturday in the northeastern state of Assam. In July alone, nearly 16 people were mauled in four different attacks across the country. The most serious was in the eastern state of West Bengal, where a leopard wandered into a village and injured 11 people.
Many of this year’s attacks were in places on the edges of forest reserves, reflecting the growing encroachment of humans on the leopard’s ecosystem, said Belinda Wright, the executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, a nonprofit group. As their habitat shrinks, the cats, which can weigh up to 250 pounds, wander into adjoining human settlements.
Samir Sinha, head of Traffic India, a division of the World Wildlife Fund, said that leopards were much more adaptable than other big cats and could live off cattle and dogs in the absence of their usual prey like antelopes and deer. People are usually unprepared to deal with a leopard intrusion and sometimes help precipitate attacks, he and other cat experts add.
“The animal is already under stress” when it enters a village and spots humans, Mr. Sinha said. “It’s best to get out of its way, because as it tries to break away someone will be injured.”
People living in areas close to leopard habitats sometimes run into trouble when they enter jungles to defecate, Ms. Wright said. In some areas or rural India, only a tiny percentage of households have access to modern sanitation, she noted. Read the full report here.
Source: By Pamposh Raina, New York Times.