Shimla, Aug 26 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government Monday said two leopards were shot dead in Mandi district this month as they were responsible for killing three people but a wildlife NGO expressed doubts about the dead male cats being actually man-eaters.
"Three people, including a woman, were killed and two others got injuries in five leopard attacks on humans in Seraj area, forcing the wildlife authorities to declare both leopards as man-eaters July 25," Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri told the assembly in a written reply.
To check the attack of leopards on villagers, 15 cameras and five cage traps were laid at various places in the area. Three teams of wildlife officials monitored the situation, he said.
To hunt the man-eater leopards, the government hired the services of Shafath Ali Khan of Hyderabad and Ashish Dasgupta, a member of the Himachal Wildlife Advisory Board.
Both the leopards were shot dead by the former - first Aug 11 and the second Aug 21.
But NGO Nature Watch has expressed doubts about the killing of the man-eaters.
In a statement to the media, the Shimla-based group said the state wildlife wing has handled the issue casually and unprofessionally to soothe public outcry and killed wrong leopards while hunting for the man-eater.
"We condemn the mishandling of the entire operation to hunt the man-eater. Even the government's role in hiring the services of hunter Shafath Ali Khan, a man with dubious credentials, and the resultant killing of unidentified leopards, including a cub, just to soothe public outcry is questionable," said its national convener Rajeshwar Negi.
He said the granting of permit by the forest authorities to kill the leopard, protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, without first attempting and exhausting all attempts to capture, tranquilize and translocate it is a clear violation of Section 11 (A) of the act.
"Such permit can only be issued after being satisfied that such animal is dangerous to human life, which could not have been the case with regard to the leopards killed including a cub," he said.
According to the last census conducted by the wildlife wing in 2004, there were 761 leopards in the state.
The leopard menace is more acute in Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Mandi and Kangra districts and parts of Kullu, Shimla, Sirmaur and Solan districts.