The Alipiri road passes through the 526-sqkm Sri Venkateswara Wildlife Sanctuary that is home to at least 22 leopards. According to officials, there could be around eight leopards roaming the area close to the road. “We have no idea whether it is one leopard or more than one that is attacking children. Nevertheless, we have already set up trap cages in areas that are frequented by leopards. We expect some result soon,’ a senior forest department official said.
Another officer said that there could be more than one reason why the big cat has come closer to human habitation. First of all, the two attacks that took place in the last week could be accidental. The animal might have come hunting for some deer and attacked the child instead. Leopards have been roaming more in the area since the population of the deer in a nearby park increased to 250. Another reason could be that it had come looking for dogs, pigs etc that feed on the refuse food being dumped in the area.
He said that the situation should be taken seriously as it indicates that the leopard has lost fear of coming closer to humans. Secondly, it appears that humans could be its next target. “Given this scenario, every effort should be made to catch or neutralize the animal,” he said.
The trap cage comprises two compartments and well camouflaged. The door to the first compartment comes down when the leopard enters it and tries to attack the bait which could be a dog, goat or sheep kept in the second compartment of the cage.
To ensure faster trapping of the animal, the road has been closed down for pilgrims between 4:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Meanwhile, the officials have started to shift the deer to various locations from the deer park which is spread over seven hectares. The per-hectare carrying capacity of park is only about eight deer. Based on this calculation, the park should not have more than 60 deer.
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