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Angry UP villagers burn leopard to death

By Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
May 09, 2008 13:57 IST
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Frustrated by the delays and inadequate measures of wildlife officials, angry villagers managed to corner a man-eating leopard and burnt it alive in a village in Lakhimpur-Kheri district, about 200 km from Lucknow, on Thursday afternoon.

The leopard had killed three persons over the past three weeks while unconfirmed reports blame the animal for killing at least two other persons between January and March.

The villagers turned violent after the leopard struck again on Thursday in Bilahar village in the North Kheri forest range of Lakhimpur-Kheri district. It left three villagers wounded before hiding in a thick orchard in the neigbourhood, the police said.

Armed with country-made guns, spears, rods and other crude weapons, the villagers surrounded the orchard and forced the leopard out. Attacked with the crude weapons, the injured animal leapt and sneaked into a house seeking  safety.

Hurriedly shutting the door of the house, the villagers sprinkled kerosene around the house and set it ablaze.

"The charred body of the leopard was recovered after the house was completely razed," district forest officer KK Singh told on Friday morning. "In fact, we had promptly rushed a team to trap the animal shortly after we learnt about the leopard's strike on Thursday, but the locals not only disallowed our men to even enter the village but also misbehaved with them,"  Singh added.

State chief wildlife conservator DNS Suman maintained, "Legal action will be initiated against the mob responsible for killing the leopard; we have already told local officials to get a criminal case registered." Suman added, "No one has the right to take the law into his hands, and in this case our men were already on the job and would have managed to trap the animal alive if the villagers had not come in the way."

Villagers are believed to have taken the extreme step on account of continued dithering by the wildlife bureaucracy which could not take a decision to declare the animal a man-eater.

Wildlife laws permit killing of the endangered tiger or leopard only after it is officially declared a man-eater.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow