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LOCKDOWN EFFECT: WILDLIFE KILLINGS, RESCUE AND HORRIBLE DEATH OF 3 LEOPARDS IN KARNATAKA

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By Meera Bhardwaj

Even as the World Biodiversity Day was being celebrated on the 22nd, three Leopards were found dead in Mysuru, Karnataka, India in highly suspicious circumstances. It sent shock waves as a few days back, a leopard with her four cubs was caught on camera and this video was widely shared on the social media with its location details by many people. 

Adding to this tragedy, a carcass of an 8–9-year-old tigress was found in the Nugu Range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The carcass was found in an elephant proof trench by the forest staff. As per preliminary reports, the tigress may have been involved in a territorial fight as it had injuries on its head and neck with loss of one canine. With this, two tigers have died this month, one in Bandipur and the other in Bhadra.

WILDLIFE KILLINGS

With the Pandemic lockdown continuing, the month of May has witnessed many incidents where big carnivores and herbivores have been found dead in a rail kill or suspicious circumstances while antelopes have been hunted for their meat in some parts of the state. 

On Saturday, a mother leopard with her two cubs were found dead near Belawadi industrial area near the BEML campus. In fact, a few spotted big cats were often seen crossing the road on the outskirts of Mysuru, wildlife activists inform. Now whether it is the same leopard and cubs that have died due to consumption of a poisoned dog has to be ascertained.

According to forest officials, they are suspected to have died in the aftermath of eating the carcass of a poisoned dog. There were no signs of any external injury on the leopard bodies. Only after the postmortem report comes, it will reveal whether the cause of death is due to poisoning or some other reason. Since leopards often stray into human settlements to feed on stray dogs – many a time, people have deliberately left poisoned dogs on the streets and therefore, the chances of deliberate poisoning cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the rescue of two elephants by the forest department warmed the hearts of many.  However, this was followed by the tragic rail-kill of a young tusker on the Sakleshpur rail route which disheartened many activists.

TUSKER RAIL KILLING

On 16th night, a wild tusker was killed when it collided with an express train at Hadase village, Halasulige Gram panchayat limits near Sakleshpur in Hassan district. The tusker was hit by the Bengaluru-Karwar Express at the Haside railway crossing. The animal was killed on the spot while the train’s engine was damaged. 

The railway gatekeeper missed seeing the pachyderm near the track before he closed the railway gates for the smooth movement of the train. Alas! The jumbo suddenly appeared on the track and maybe, didn’t move sideways as there was a deep pit on either side. It was caught right on the tracks amid the shrill and desperate sounds of the train horn and lights – nowhere to go…

BHADRA TIGER DEATH

On the first of this month, the death of a tiger was reported in Tanigebail Range of Bhadra Tiger Reserve. 

A male tiger was found dead in the Shola forests of Kemmangundi section near old Maharaja guest house Road. The 3-4 years old tiger had reportedly died due to a territorial fight. The big cat’s front leg had punctured marks with some ribs broken as also big bite marks on the neck, as per the post mortem report. 

HOSADURGA LEOPARD

On 12 th morning, a 2-3 year old leopard was caged at Hebballi village in Hosadurga taluk of Chitradurga district. 

With the villagers complaining to the forest department about sighting a leopard which was lurking near a house next to the village lake, officials had kept a cage for capturing the leopard. With the leopard sustaining injuries as it tried to come out of the cage, the big spotted cat will be released after treatment and observations.

RESCUE OF TWO ELEPHANTS

On May 18, a tusker was rescued when it had strayed and fallen into an elephant trench at Avaregundi village in Siddapura of Kodagu district. The young elephant had come in search of easy food and before it could reach the village, it fell into the trench. 

With the disturbed and stressed jumbo stuck up for a few hours, forest department dug up a passage to help the animal to climb and get out of the deep trench. With an excavator making a passage and literally giving the last push to come out of the trench, the foresters burst crackers to push the young elephant back into the reserve forest.

While on the 16th, another young elephant which was stuck in a slushy and fresh mud puddle in Moleyur Range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve was rescued by forest officials. It had fallen sideways and was so helpless that it could be seen rolling from one side to another. Despite many attempts, it could not get up. However, using an excavator, foresters pushed the jumbo up gently and thankfully the exhausted calf got up and walked away.

HUNTING INCIDENTS

Like last year, some hunting groups in the state have become active during the lockdown period, however, the incidents of hunting are under control due to strict vigil by the forest department. 

Chikkamagaluru forest officials raided a place and recovered three bikes and an illegal gun which was used for hunting near Kesavinamane village. The hunting group had killed a spotted deer however, all the six hunters had vanished.

In Kodagu district, Somwarpete range officials arrested two hunters who had killed a spotted and a barking deer. On 17th, receiving a tip off, forest officials raided a house in Hosahalli village, Somwarpete taluk. 

Forest officials recovered two kilogram of spotted deer meat and three kilogram of barking deer meat. One gun with bullets was recovered. The hunters had killed two Schedule-3 species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the Jenukallu Betta reserve forest.

CONFLICT DEATHS

With elephants straying frequently into coffee estates in Kodagu district, on the 17th, a worker from Tamilnadu was killed by a tusker at Vaalur village near Siddapura. A coffee plantation worker, Yelumalai (50) was trampled to death by an elephant as these parts have been seeing many elephant herds coming into estates to eat the just harvested Jackfruits.

It is not just Kodagu but also Hassan district where elephant herds roam in Alur and Belur taluks due to loss of their habitat and elephant corridors. One more plantation worker died on the 6 in Arehalli village of Belur taluk. Shivu (50) died when attacked by elephants when he was moving around the coffee estate.

It is not just plantation workers but also forest staff who have been killed by straying elephants when driving them back to forests. 

Puttaraju, a forest guard died in the hospital in Chikkamagaluru on the 7th after he was seriously injured in an elephant drive operation. This happened when villagers set off crackers in the opposite direction and the forest guard was caught in the middle when an elephant stepped on him during the operations near Gullanpete village of Aldur range.