ERODE: Panic has gripped areas in and around Sathy after a 24-year-old van driver was mauled to death by a ‘man-eater’ leopard.
The incident occurred on Thimbam Ghat Road near Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve on Wednesday night.
Speaking to Express, K Rajkumar, Divisional Forest Officer, said the victim was identified as Mohammed Illiyaz. He is a resident of Thalavadi. Along with two of his friends, he was proceeding with a tomato load from Thalavadi from Tiruppur in a van on Wednesday night.
While they were negotiating the 27th hairpin curve, the trio stopped the van after seeing a toppled vehicle in 50-foot gorge.
Though it was pitch dark, Iliyaz went down a slope to reach out to the ill-fated vehicle, which was carrying quality steel. The accident reportedly happened two days ago.
However his friends decided to stay back while Illiyaz walked down the slope near the area where metals had fallen from the toppled vehicle.
While the friends were waiting for Ilyaz to return, suddenly they heard his screams. They also spotted a leopard at the place. The duo, who were panicked after seeing the big cat, ran away from the spot fearing for life.
But, they did not give information to the forest officials about the leopard or the condition of their friend Ilyaz.
Meanwhile, the forest ranger at the Bannari Forest Check post received an anonymous call saying that a few people were searching for someone near the 27th hairpin curve.
Immediately, a team of forest officials rushed to the spot. But, they could not find anyone. Subsequently, Ilyaz’s family members who came there, told the forest personnel about the incident in which Iliaz walked down the slope in the area where an accident taken place and said they were searching for him.
Rajkumar said a detailed investigation was under way to ascertain what exactly happened at the spot as there were contradictory claims.
But, the official confirmed that the driver has been mauled to death by a leopard. The animal pounced on his neck and tore him to pieces.
There are marks of the nails on the ear, which clearly indicated that it was an attack by a single leopard. It could have been a very close encounter for the victim with the animal.
Moreover, Ilyaz would have presumably bent down to pick the steel pieces and he would have appeared like an animal in that darkness for the leopard, which would have pounced thinking him to be a prey, he explained.
The DFO cautioned people not to climb down the slopes or venture into the forest area, as of late there is frequent movement of animals, which could attack them.