CHENNAI: Amidst a series of reports of leopard sightings in villages around Chengalpattu and Vandalur in the last two months, a male leopard aged between 8 and 10 years was caught on a camera-trap set by the Forest Department in the Vallam Reserve Forest, about 5 km from Chengalpattu.
Forest officials suspect that this could be the big cat that strayed into villages as it moved between the forest clusters in the region and caused much apprehension among the locals. The officials are now planning to set a cage trap for the animal in the vicinity where it has been spotted. If they are successful, the captured animal will be relocated to a safer location.
While the leopard has so far not hurt any humans, it had hunted four goats on May 23 at Irungkundrampalli, one of the many villages located in the midst of the forest spread between Chengalpattu and Vandalur. In the last one week, two leopard sightings were reported even in remote villages like Madaiyanur and Panangattupakkam, which are about 10 to 12 km away from Vandalur. The leopard sightings had caused much fear and panic among the villagers, many of whom have formed groups to patrol their villages during the nighttime to keep the big cat away.
“The leopard was captured on camera on July 12. So far, we only had indirect evidence like pug marks. This is the first direct proof. This could be the animal that strayed into the villages. We are setting up cages near this spot,” said A Gopu, forest ranger of the Chengalpattu range.
From the images, veterinary doctors have ascertained that it is a male aged between 8 and 10 years.
When questioned about the possibility of more leopards, forest officials said they believe this was the only big cat in the area. “This leopard also seems not so dangerous. It has not attacked anyone so far. But to avoid any untoward incident, we want to capture and transport it to a safer place,” said a forest official.
Big Cat on the Prowl
May 17: First sighting of a leopard near Chengalpattu
May 23: Leopard kills four goats, injures a dog at Irungkundrampalli near Chengalpattu
May 24: Forest officials confirm pug marks indicate presence of leopards, get permission to set up 5 cages, 8 camera-traps
June 9: Movement of a leopard in a Vandalur village confirmed
June 10: Four camera-traps, two cage-traps set in forest areas near Vandalur
June 13: Leopard spotted at Panangattupakkam, as far away as 12 km from Vandalur
June 16: Leopard sighted crossing Thiruporur-Chengalpattu road near Madaiyanur village
July 12: Camera-trap at Vallam Reserve Forest captures image of a single male leopard