Indian Leopards: In the Killing Fields

2004, Nature  -  51 min Leave a Comment
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This story is one of many in India today. When darkness falls the stage is set for the maneater. The village is alerted as the child is abducted. The search is on but the girl was nowhere to be found. A man-eating leopard has killed the girl.

To understand the ways of the leopard we must first understand the ways of life of the vast majority of people living in the rural areas of India. Their stories are dramatic and their experiences horrific.

Alerted by recent reports of leopard attacks on cattle and people, not very far from the bustling metropolis of Mumbai, authorities decided to go on a nightly vigil to ascertain leopard sightings and to instill a sense of security amongst the terror-stricken villagers.

The villagers are seen carrying weapons to protect themselves from the leopards. Sixteen leopards have been caught in the last three months and the department decides to put cages in the fields to capture them. For the villagers, the nightmare is real and will last for days to come. The girl's body was found... half-eaten by the leopard.

For the girl's family, the situation is unbearable. They're still trying to fathom what happened. The mother and the girl were sleeping outside and the leopard just snatched the child from the mother's lap. The mother even tried to run after it shouting "come back" but the animal jumped away and disappeared into the dark. No explanations will ease their pain and no arguments will make them understand and accept.

Much smaller than its cousins, the lions of Africa and the tigers of Asia, the leopard relies on its power and stealth. This is a predator that can strike fear into any victim, including mankind. The leopard is on the endangered species list, granted international protection, but is it, acceptable kids, to be snatched from their playgrounds and villagers to be killed at night? With new fatalities weekly, the question lingers... leopards or people.