Monday, March 1, 2010

An awkward kill

The leopard must have been very hungry to go for a kill twice or thrice his o her size. When we reached the spot we could make out that the kill was not severely injured or dead.

The awkward attack suggested of a young leopard male or female. It was difficult to make out from few pug marks that we could trace.The cattle was lying totally floored to the ground with not much loss of blood,  but its vertebral column was damaged. From the charge we could make out the the attacker was not a tiger. 

The attack took place around seven or eight in the evening and the alarm cries brought the owner to the spot. The leopard had remained rooted to the spot where it had made the charge. The cattle had staggered to about fifty yards before it was grounded.  

The alarm cries alerted the owner, and perhaps the leopard hesitated as many a times the owners must have been summoned quickly. The owner and some other people gathered around the cattle and tried to raise  the animal but could not. They than sat around the animal whole night in order to keep the big cat away. 

The kill had been made a few yards from the luxury resort at Kanha National Park in Boda Chappari village. We walked down to the spot at noon. The forest guard had been summoned and he was taking stock of the situation. There were claw marks on the back on both sides and the neck had been gnashed from the top. This had resulted in breakage in the vertebral column.  

The owner of the eco resort an experienced man about forest matters accompanied us to the spot. The cattle bull was undergoing great sufferance but there was hesitation in letting the animal finish and consume it or use some other method for a swift death. Eventually the bull was carried to a spot near to the villagers house for observation and prevention of poisoning of the kill.   

The leopard must have been very hungry and must have been unable to make another kill. It approached the cattle in the night and consumed it. It was later chased away in wee hours of the morning. The dead cattle was than cremated. The leopard  was a female with cubs as we found out later and hence the desperation for food.   

This is a frequent occurrence in the buffer zone of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh in India. This reflects upon the man animal conflict and challenges the management capability of the department. In spite of good prey base big cats find live stock an easy target as compared to the fleet footed deer. Every year a large number of cattle are killed whence the venture into the forest.

The villagers receive compensation, it would not a big surprise if the cattle owners have made this a opportune business since I am told the proportion of bulls is higher than the cows in the Kanha buffer. This also explains scarcity of fresh milk in the buffer.