India: Village mob beats wild leopard to death as forest officials watch helplessly

Hundreds of villagers chase leopard, kill it with axe and sticks and then parade the corpse in town

Picture for representation
Kirin, a seven-year-old male Amur (Far Eastern) leopard, growls inside an open-air cage at the Royev Ruchey zoo in Krasnoyarsk, Russia Reuters

A 3-year-old leopard was mercilessly beaten to death in broad day light by people in an Indian farming village, in the latest horrifying incident from a country where a series of shocking incidents of animal cruelty have been reported lately.

The shocking incident of animal cruelty happened on Friday in Gurugram village in the Northern state of Haryana. The brutality didn't end with the kill, but the villagers paraded the dead leopard around the village, celebrating their victory, even as wildlife department officers and police watched silently.

It has been alleged that the unfortunate incident was not stopped by the authoritaties. Man-animal confrontations are quite frequent in India where wild life is hemmed in by the expanding agricultural activities.

The young male leopard sneaked into the Mandawar village, probably in search of food, at around 8:30 am and the news spread like wildfire, triggering an assembly of more than hundred people to teach the animal a lesson. While the inefficient forest officers ran helter-skelter trying to tranquilise the animal, the hot-headed villagers cornered the leopard and attacked it with axe and sticks.

Clash between man and animal

To save its life, the frightened leopard leapt from one place to the other for over three hours and instinctively attacked by the mob. Panic increased and more people joined in to put an end to the animal. At the end, the helpless animal took shelter under a cot inside a house but people dragged it out and started beating it with sticks and rods until it died.

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The people then paraded with the dead body clicking pictures and shouting victory slogans through the village disrupting the Sohna-Faridabad Expressway traffic for about 20 minutes.

The unfortunate incident not only brought a sad end to an endangered animal but also highlighted the inefficiency of the forest department. "The animal could injure so many people and terrorise our village for so long because forest officials were so inept," said Seema, a resident of the village, reported the Times of India.

However, MD Sinha, conservator of forests (Gurgaon circle) said that there were so many people surrounding the animal that officers couldn't even get a proper aim to fire a tranquilising dart. "The leopard was surrounded by an angry crowd of over 1,000 people, which couldn't have been managed... My team had tranquilisers, but couldn't get a clear line of sight," said Sinha, as reported.

"Its body was taken for a post-mortem to Sultanpur, and will be cremated afterwards," he added saying that it was a healthy adult male.

Leopard population is under threat especially in India because of habitat loss and pest control. It has also been listed as vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.

Whom to blame?

Leopards are venturing out into human settlements in search of food. Last year, a leopard was hacked to death in a village in Purulia, located in the eastern state of West Bengal. Angry villagers clubbed the leopards in front of the police and then hung it from the tree after chopping off its paws and tail. A FIR has been filed against unidentified men by the forest department. However, experts argue that both the officials and the villagers are to be blamed for the incident.

Cruelty to animals is menacingly real in India. The latest killing comes after several cruel incidents like hundreds of dogs getting butchered in India's southern state of Kerala or cats being slaughtered to be made into tasty biriyanis in Chennai.