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Three young boys killed by big cats in Indian state in less than one week

Representative: A leopard reacts as it walks inside the Dachigam National Park in India on 10 April 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)
Representative: A leopard reacts as it walks inside the Dachigam National Park in India on 10 April 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

Three children have been mauled to death in less than one week in separate attacks by leopards and lionesses in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The attacks all took place in the same district of Amreli, though in different villages, with the latest being a leopard attack on Saturday night when two-year-old Manav Parmar was sleeping with his family members in a hut in the village of Katar.

The big cat caught the toddler by his neck and dragged him away to the nearby bushes. Officials say the leopard only dropped the boy and escaped when his family chased after it.

“His mother saw the boy being attacked and being lifted away by the leopard. The parents chased the leopard and managed to get the toddler,” a forest officer of the Shetrunji wildlife division told the Indian Express.

The boy had severe neck injuries and was taken to a hospital in a nearby town, but was transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighbouring district of Bhavnagar for better medical facilities.  He succumbed to his injuries on the way.

The forest department has set up cages in the area to catch the leopard and move it away from human settlements. “We have placed trap cages to rescue the leopard. A veterinary officer with a tranquiliser gun has also been deputed to the area to tranquilise the leopard, if need be, and capture the leopard,” said Jayan Patel, deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of Shetrunji wildlife division.

This comes less than five days after a three-year-old boy was killed in a leopard attack in Karjala village of the same district on 8 May.

And last Tuesday a five-month-old baby boy was mauled to death by a Asiatic lioness when he was sleeping with his family in an open area in Khara village. Local authorities say they captured the leopard and lioness involved in these two incidents.

A total of 34 people have died from lion and leopard attacks in past two years in Gujarat, while a total of 229 persons were injured, the state assembly today.

It comes after a study, conducted by the zoology department of Gujarat’s Maharaja Sayajirao University, found that shrinking forest coverage and loss of wild prey species in the state are forcing leopards to venture into villages.

The study on prey abundance, land use and movement patterns of leopards was conducted in the Surat district, where the researchers say that human-animal conflict has increased with a rapid rise in leopard population.

With the prey base of wild cats – wild boar and deer – declining, the leopards are venturing out to hunt livestock in villages, the Times of India quoted the researchers as saying.

The leopard count in the state has grown by over 50 per cent in the past six years, jumping from 1,395 in 2016 to 2,200 in 2023, reported the outlet citing forest department sources.

The officials also raised concern about human-animal conflict, as they reported sighting 40 per cent of the leopards in the revenue areas closer to human habitations.

The lion population in Gujarat has also seen a surge of eight per cent to more than 700 individuals, according to a 2021 report by Times of India.

Meanwhile, 240 lions and 370 leopards have died in Gujarat in the last two years, the state’s environment minister Mulu Bera informed the Gujarat Assembly earlier in March. Of these, 214 lions and 256 leopards died of natural causes.