The University of Hyderabad administration has cautioned students against venturing into thick vegetated areas in the campus at night, suspecting that a leopard is lurking around in the varsity. The University in a statement said, "It is suggested that students and residents don't venture out lonely in thickly vegetated areas in the night and be alert when moving from North to South campuses and vice versa till the Forest officials clear the unconfirmed sightings." (sic).
According to a student, and wildlife conservationist, Ravi Jillapalli, a security guard deputed at the North campus sighted a leopard chasing a dog on Thursday at 1.30 am, while she was guarding Ladies Hostel-6. Subsequently, she alerted her colleagues.
Ravi said, “She is certain that she saw a leopard chasing a dog from the woods. The area where she was deputed is also well lit.”
To ascertain the presence of the feline in the campus, students belonging to Wild Lens, a wildlife conservationist group led by Ravi Jillapalli searched the thick forest areas in the north campus. They also photographed a pug mark. However, they are not sure if the pug mark belongs to a leopard.
Pug mark spotted by Wild Lens
The forest department also sent two teams – one from Shamshabad forest division and an anti-poaching team who conducted searches in the campus. However, they did not find any carcass of the dog or any other animal. However, not taking any chance, they have decided to set two trap cages and trap cameras near the water bodies to establish the presence of the animal. The university has two big water bodies – peacock lake and buffalo lake.
Speaking to TNM, A Shankaran, Deputy Conservator of Forests, OSD, Wildlife said, “Since the soil is hard with litter, they (officials) couldn't find any pug marks.”
“If there was a leopard chasing a dog, it would have definitely killed it. A dog cannot outrun a leopard. But after conducting searches they couldn't find the carcass of the dog,” he added.
However, he is not dismissive about the feline being spotted in the campus where the forest cover has been on a decline owing to new constructions. “These animals have adapted to the conditions. Leopards were spotted in urban areas, we found leopards in Marredpally, Chilkur, Jubilee Hills and many such urban spaces, so we cannot dismiss it.”
“We will set up cameras around water bodies. If the animal is there, it will definitely come to drink water. Then we can capture the animal on camera.”
The forest department also issued guidelines to the security guards to patrol only on four-wheelers and asked the varsity to issue an advisory to students and residents against venturing out after 9 pm in the campus.