The Residents of Wadi village in Surat district, India, burnt alive a leopard trapped in a cage set up by the forest department Thursday night, a day after a seven-year-old girl was mauled to death by a big cat in the area.
It is yet to be ascertained that the leopard killed by the villagers was the same that attacked the girl. The forest department has registered a case against the villagers for violating animal protection laws. Wadi is the native village of state minister for forest and tourism Ganpat Vasawa.
Forest officials had installed five cages at different locations after a leopard killed the girl Wednesday morning. According to forest officials, a leopard was trapped in one of the cages Thursday night and as soon as the news spread in the village, people rushed to the spot to kill the animal.
According to eyewitnesses and the forest department, the villagers overpowered the forest officials near the cage, poured kerosene on the leopard and burnt it alive.
After the animal was believed to have died inside the cage, the villagers took out the body and again set it on fire. By the time a larger team of forest officials reached the spot, the leopard was already dead.
“There were over hundreds of villagers who had taken law in their hands and burnt the leopard alive. We have registered an offence against unidentified persons under section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act.
A special investigation team has been formed to probe the case… We have also handed a cheque of Rs 4 lakh to the family members of Nikita Vasawa (the girl killed in the leopard) today,” said DFO J H Rathod.
On Wednesday morning, Nikita, along with two other girls, had to answer nature’s call behind her home, when they were attacked by a leopard hiding in the bush. The leopard had dragged Nikita by her neck to nearby agriculture fields.
This was the second incident of leopard attack on a minor in the village in 15 days.
In July, a group of men killed a leopard with sticks and stones in Gujarat's Rojmal village.
With 1,395 leopards, Gujarat has the second highest population of the cats in the country. More than a third of these cats live close to human habitation.
Last year, more than a dozen people, mostly farm workers, were killed and over 100 were injured in leopard attacks.
In many villages of Gujarat, people light small fires while working on fields to keep the cats away.
In February, a male leopard entered a school in the city of Bangalore and injured six people trying to capture it.
And in October last year, a male leopard spent five hours with its head stuck in a metal pot in a village in the northern state of Rajasthan.