Green minute news :
Snaring has become a silent killer of big cats in territorial forests of Karnataka. And Coffee Estates in Chikkamagaluru district has claimed the lives of two leopards this month.
On Thursday night, a 5-6-year-old male leopard that was trapped in an “illegal snare” in a Coffee estate in Chikkamagaluru died. However, the poor animal had to SUFFER a 42 hour long tortuous and lingering death till Saturday afternoon.
Doddanagudde Coffee Estate, Survey No :17/1 in Channapura village of Chikkamagaluru taluk saw the visit of a leopard in the dead of night maybe, to quench its thirst. This estate has a huge water body and just about 200 metres from this – the leopard was caught in a snare and had died. But when forest officials reached the spot, they found it still alive and grunting in unbelievable pain and making valiant efforts to survive. But it was too late to do anything.
Although the leopard was caught in a snare installed inside the estate owned by the Rebello family but neither the owners nor the managers or the workers informed any forest officials about the snared leopard for two days.
A very well maintained 500-acre coffee estate, it has more than 300 workers and it is amazing that none of them could hear the roar or the grunting of this suffering leopard for two days. Added to this, the snared leopard was just nearby the water body which is often used by the workers. Further, there are Labour Quarters just 200 metres away from the spot of leopard death but still nobody heard its desperate call for help.
Almost 15 days back, an elephant had been found quenching its thirst in the same water body. In fact, the workers who may themselves have been responsible for installation of illegal snares to catch wild boars and smaller mammals claimed they did not hear any roar or know anything about snares. However, activists said this was to escape arrest and its serious consequences since the killing of a leopard by snaring attracts three years imprisonment being a Schedule-1 animal.
Added to the problem of people not bothering to inform authorities, forest officials say if the estate people had informed them on Friday morning itself, the male leopard could have been saved. Further, with the death of a male leopard, it is loss of precious gene pool.
In the absence of a medical rescue team with darting expertise in the district, wildlife activists said there is an urgent need for a dedicated tranquillisation team to save BIG CATS and other precious wildlife that are caught in snares frequently in the vast coffee estates.
According to Chikkamagaluru territorial officials, they were informed by estate people only at 9 am on Saturday about the snared leopard. So, a team comprising forest guards and watchers rushed to the spot. And by afternoon, a medical team from Shivamogga too had reached. But alas! the leopard succumbed after its 42-hour-long trauma before anything could be done.
Chikkamagaluru DCF N H Jagannath said, “I immediately called for a tranquilisation team from Shivamogga. However, the leopard had struggled for 42 hours and had been strangled at its waist level with its intestines out. It was completely dehydrated and no way, we could have saved it. In the background of setting up of illegal snares for catching wild boars in coffee estates, we will be taking action. We will be sending a circular to all coffee estates for any illegal activities like SNARES and they should inform the forest department so that combing operations can be done for its removal.”
With estate workers making a hue and cry about its cremation in the estate, Dr Sujay and his team from Shivamogga Lion Safari conducted the post mortem and cremated the body elsewhere. DCF Jagannath, ACF Muddanna and RFO Swathi and wildlife warden Veeresh were present at the spot.
Snaring has become common in Coffee Estates to catch smaller mammals and they are silent killers of Schedule-1 animals. “We have two important PA in our district – Kudremukh National Park and Bhadra Tiger Reserve but still no Tranquilisation team is there to rescue big cats,” honorary district wildlife warden G Veeresh stressed. “Strict action should be initiated against private property owners who allow installation of such snares in their estates and do not even inform authorities about snaring incidents. The long and painful struggle of the leopard is evident as the nearby vegetation is all damaged and one cannot imagine its painful end. It was still grunting when we reached the spot and making efforts to come out of the strong cables that had trapped him. Not only this leopard is dead, it will lead to encouragement of trading in its body parts by wildlife traders. The forest department should allocate a medical rescue team in view of the rising snaring incidents in the district.”
As per FOC dated 27.3.2021, the Range Forest Officer has booked a case under Section 2(16), 9, 39, r/w 50, 50C, 51 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 against the estate owner F M E Rebello, J J S Rebello and E J G Rebello for detection of a wildlife offence in their estate. The vast estate falls in KR Pete beat and KR Pete section of Chikkamagaluru division. Presently, the offenders are absconding and forest officials said they are searching for them.
In Chikkamagaluru district, this is the second such snaring incident resulting in the death of a big cat. On March 7th, a leopard had died by snaring inside Vinayaka coffee estate in Mullayanagiri but till date, no arrests have been made.