Sunday afternoon was no ordinary afternoon for the people of Thazhetheru in the northern district of Kannur in Kerala. Around 3pm, the air was tense, as a leopard strayed into the thickly populated residential area, much to the horror of the residents.
Following this, the district collector Mohammad Ali imposed Section 144 in the area and advised the residents to stay indoors to ensure safety. When the leopard was finally caught at around 11pm, the wild cat had already spent eight hours out in the open.
A team led by Arun Zakharia, veterinary surgeon with the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, along with officials of the forest department, tranquilized the leopard and shifted the animal to a cage.
"I was called in for the operation at 5 pm in the evening and started the operation three hours later. By then, the leopard had already injured three persons and the locals had chased the animal for a long time. Following this, the leopard hid in a thick bush very close to the railway tracks," said Dr Zakharia.
"With the help of forest and police officials, we fenced the area where the leopard was hiding and tranquilized the animal. I wouldn't call the animal a man-eater, it had panicked when the locals chased it with sticks."
Once the leopard was captured, locals gathered around the cage and cheered the team for capturing the animal.
Range officer Joshil told media persons that the combined efforts of the police department and the forest officials had led to the animalâ€™s capture without any casualties.
"All the departments acted in a timely manner and so we could avoid casualty, both to residents and the animal itself," the officer said.
According to local media reports, the leopard is believed to have reached the town in a goods vehicle from Karnataka.
An official at the forest department told The News Minute that the leopard will not be released into the forest, but will be sent to Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thriruvananthapuram.
However, refusing to confirm this, Varma, Chief Conservator of Forest (Kannur) said that the leopard was currently being taken to the Thrissur zoo to be kept under observation.
"We haven't yet taken a call on whether to release the animal into the forest or do something else," the IAS officer said.