MUZAFFARABAD: A common leopard was stoned and strangled to death by angry villagers after it descended on a human settlement in Jhelum valley district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Tuesday and allegedly caused injuries to at least three persons.
Video footage shot by different people and shared on social media showed the carnivore strolling on a link road and hiding itself beneath a slope in Sarai village, located on the right bank of River Jhelum a little ahead of district headquarters Hattian Bala.
In one clip, screams of panicked women could also be heard as they feared the animal was making a leap towards them.
This is the second leopard to be killed in less than three weeks in the region
“I was on my way to school along with my uncle and a female colleague when we spotted the leopard which looked weak and unwell. Initially we got scared, but then my uncle asked me to make a video for the department (of wildlife) so that they could get it treated,” said Bushra Bibi, 33, one of the injured teachers.She said while she had just taken out her mobile phone, the leopard rushed towards them.
“We ran for our lives during which I stumbled and received injuries on arms and face,” she added.
Her 40-year-old colleague Sabiha, however, got her hand bruised with the leopard’s claws.
Similarly, her uncle was also injured in an attack by the wild animal.
But the injuries were not serious and all three were relieved from the district headquarters hospital after treatment.
In the meanwhile, the villagers, who were already seething with anger over the loss of some of their livestock in the recent past, lost their cool and pelted the animal with stones, causing its death.
In one clip, the leopard is seen having been strangled with a rope.
Syeda Shaista, a wildlife department official based in Muzaffarabad, told Dawn that when they came to know that a leopard had been surrounded by around 200 enraged villagers they asked their team of around eight people in a nearby area to rush to the spot.
“However, the team found itself helpless in the face of the large steamed up crowd,” she added.
She said the department sought help from the local administration but by the time assistant commissioner Ghulam Mohiuddin Gillani reached the spot the leopard had breathed its last.
The animal was shifted to Muzaffarabad for autopsy so as to determine whether it was sick or injured due to territorial fight with some other leopard, she said.
In the meanwhile, the department had also lodged an application with the Hattian Bala police against two persons who were alleged to have strangled it. But the FIR had not been registered till the filing of this report.
In the current year, it’s the second incident involving the death of a leopard at the hands of humans.
Earlier, on Jan 22, an injured leopard was evacuated from along Neelum River and shifted to Islamabad for treatment where it did not survive. The autopsy had revealed that it had sustained at least six pellets from a shotgun.
According to Naeem Iftikhar Dar, head of the AJK wildlife and fisheries department, last year 10 leopards had been killed as a result of human-leopard conflict.
This suggested that the population of leopards was on the rise in AJK, he said.