PATHANAMTHITTA: Who suffers the most when a leopard breaches the forest boundaries and strays into the adjacent village. Ask that question in Angamoozhy village and the young men there would say they suffer the most.
The big cats trespass on their village quite often that the parents from elsewhere are reluctant to marry off their daughters to men of Angamoozhy --- in Seethathode panchayat --- where 473 families live. Even those grooms working abroad or in military service are not spared of the leopard curse either.
The villagers say that for the past three to four years, the youths have not been getting marriage proposals from other villages. Only girls from Gavi show the courage to come forward and marry the youths of Angamoozhy. Three leopards have been caught from Ranni forest division limits this year alone.
Arun is not quite sure when his marriage will happen. "We are trapped here. Some families tried to move to other places, but nobody is ready to buy the properties in our village," said the 28-year-old graduate who works in the state government service on a temporary basis.
Sighting leopards is not uncommon in Angamoozhy. On Wednesday, when Chandrika went to feed her goat around 7 am, a leopard showed up in the shed. As she knew it is not wise to turn back and run, she mustered all courage and stood still keeping eye contact with the creature. She then moved backwards slowly. After reaching a comfortable position, Chandrika informed people in her neighbourhood. Soon the forest officials arrived and put the leopard in the cage. It died on Thursday.
Angamoozhy ward member Sreelaja Anil said lesser human interference in forests is prompting the leopards to stray into the villages.
"Earlier, our villagers depended largely on the forest to collect honey or bamboo reeds. Frequent human interference prevents wild animals from coming out of forests. But due to stringent laws, villagers take up jobs like rubber tapping and other manual works. Consequently, incidents of leopards and elephants straying into our village have increased considerably," she said.